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Contradictions In Nigeria’s Battle Against Oil Theft In Niger Delta

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Recently, the state-owned oil giant the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) announced the engagement of Global West, a company owned by an ex-militant, Government Tompolo to protect crude oil pipelines in the Niger Delta.

The security deal with a non-state actor has received widespread condemnation from Nigerians and some stakeholders who equated the action of the oil firm to dereliction of duty by the state funded military.

Though, since the appointment of the private security firm to guard the pipelines, many illegal pipelines, deployed by oil thieves to siphon oil from the country have been discovered with the joint efforts of the military and Tompolo’s outfit.

For instance, the NNPC came out to announce the discovery of an illegal tap on Shell Petroleum Producing Company (SPDC) Trans escravos pipeline, which was used by oil thieves to siphon crude into barges for export.

Also, the military and the private security firm were credited with the destruction of an illegal vessel discovered to have been loaded with stolen crude from the country.

The sudden discovery of illegal tapping of pipelines conveying crude oil to export terminals by the private security outfit in conjunction with the security agencies has exposed the underbelly of the huge oil theft in the country.

This was against the backdrop of the deployment of the Navy and other security agencies of government into the oil-producing area of the Niger Delta over the years to safeguard the pipelines that ran across the length and breadth of the region.

The development has also confirmed insinuations that the stolen crude oil from the region is with the connivance of the oil firms, the security agencies, some people in government and the host communities.

It has also shown that the stolen of crude oil is an organized crime being committed against the country by those who are supposed to protect the economic interest of the nation.

For instance, the NNPC claimed that the illegal tapping of the Trans escravos oil pipeline has been in operation for nine years undetected by both security agencies and Shell Petroleum Company (SPDC), the operators of the pipelines.

Experts have also observed that the technicality of the illegal tapping and the quantum of the crude oil being stolen from the country couldn’t have happened under the watch of the Navy, the surveillance security tracking installed by oil firms and other security agencies without the connivance of oil companies and government officials.

This means that if the government actually wanted to stop the bleeding of the economy through the quantum of the oil being stolen from the country, the economic sabotage would have long been curtailed.

Today, Nigeria is not able to meet its Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil output quota as a result of the huge oil theft, vandalisation of the pipelines by locals and shut in of productions by oil firms.

In a recent report, the NNPC said the country is losing over $1.5 billion monthly to oil theft, while oil production declined to 900 barrels per day in August against the 1.88 million bpd OPEC output quota for the country.

The impact of this has been felt in the declining foreign exchange reserves and rapid depreciation of the country’s currency, the naira on both the official and parallel market rate and ever dropping revenue from oil export proceed to the federation account.

The current efforts which have led to the discovery of illegal tapping of crude oil pipelines by the joint operations of the private security firm and state securities agencies are considered a positive development.

This may also have a ripple effect on the economy as any increase in oil production output will definitely result in higher earnings of foreign exchange by the country; improve the value of the naira as the foreign reserves will increase and the pass-on effect of stronger naira exchange rate on the entire economy.

It has been proven that the rising inflation in the country, which is put at 20.77 per cent as of September 2022 was due to weak local currency and rising insecurity across the country which impacted negatively on food security.

So any efforts to end oil theft in the Niger Delta will surely have salutary impact on the economy and consequently the well-being of the citizens.

However, beyond the showmanship going on presently in the so-called discovery of routes in which our oil resources are been taken outside illegally by the efforts of the private security outfit portends a setback for the country.

The Nigerian Navy is the statutory body vested with the power to protect the country’s water territory and if the government could not trust such a gigantic organization funded by public finance to protect our economic installation and we have to depend on non-state actors, then the country is in trouble.

There is a need for the government to investigate and unveil those in security agencies, oil companies and NNPC and also people within the community where the oil pipeline is being illegally tapped and try them for economic sabotage.

Engaging a private security outfit and equipping it with sophisticated arms is also contrary to the position of the government not to issue permits for sub-national government security outfits for them to carry Ak 47 riffle.

The country should wake up to its responsibility and ensure that the people within the country’s territory are protected against adverse economic, political and security vagaries by strengthening institutions of government to function effectively and efficiently.

Money being paid to hire a private security outfit to protect the country’s waters way should be deployed to fortify the Navy and other relevant security agency that has the statutory responsibility to guard and protect the nation’s economic installations.

Until the governments learn to do the right thing, the current experiment with Global West as the major security outfit tasked with the protection of oil installations would amount to scratching the problem on the surface.

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