Stakeholders in the Oil industry, including pipeline host communities in Niger Delta have expressed satisfaction with the strategy adopted by the federal government to secure the nation’s crude oil from oil thieves.
The stakeholders said the award of the pipeline surveillance contract has drastically reduced crude oil theft by over 90%, noting that its evident in low availability of illegally refined crude product and significant improvement in the terminal.
At the peak of the dark days of the oil theft, industry sources have it that Nigeria was losing over 96% of its oil especially in the eastern region to oil thieves and vandals with a large chunk of that volume being stolen from the pipelines, especially the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) which conveys crude to Bonny export terminal from the various oil wells in the Niger Delta.
This led to the nation’s economic depression and slow growth with its attendant hardship, especially as crude oil revenue being the largest contributor to the nation foreign exchange earner.
Also, the environmental and health challenges posed by collateral damage to the environment, through oil pollution caused by leakages from pipeline, usually sabotaged in the course of oil tapping and the emission of soot into the environment, adjudged to endanger the lives of people living close to places where the crude were illegally refined by oil thieves popularly known as kpo fire operators.
In August 2022, the Nigeria government through the NNPCL commenced an industry wide architecture to end the menace, which has punched numerous holes into the nation’s purse was with significant negative impact on the health and fishing livelihood of the host communities.
Since then, improvements have been recorded and this can be seen from recent reports showing significant increase in the in the over all oil production values and receipts over 90%.
In addition to the production improvement, the emission of soot into the environment in areas like Port Harcourt, Owaza, Ibaa, Rundele, Rumuekpe, Ahoada and Bayelsa, which badly impacted on the people’s health has reduced geometrically and host communities around the impacted swamp sections gradually returning to fishing.
Recent checks revealed that security surveillance of the pipelines has achieved a lot in these areas, and the extent it has helped in addressing the challenge of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.
At Okohia community, on the zone 3, Owaza pipeline route being covered by one of the contractors, Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Ltd, PINL, which covers the 12-inch Trans Niger Pipeline TNP running through the area, a technical team fixing a point at the 12-inch pipeline sabotaged by vandals in an early morning attack were met.
Sunny Otuke, Chairman, Community Development Committee, (CDC) in the area said the oil thieves attacked after the surveillance guards had closed from the night shift. But lauded the technical team for the quick response, saying it saved the community from the spill that would have occurred from the sabotage.
“The boys closed work past 4am but they normally close 4am but since we noticed this their style, I told them not to be closing earlier than 5am.
“Now because we prevented them from connecting valves to steal from the pipe, they have now resorted to using saw to cut the pipe in order to cause spills.”
Otuke applauded the policy of pipeline surveillance and the contactors handling the contract, stressing that they have helped to extensively reduce oil theft that was threatening the peace and well being of the entire community.
On his part Simeon Nwagbara from Owaza Community also applauded the federal government and the NNPCL for adopting the security surveillance strategy in the fight against oil theft, illegal refining and pipeline vandalism.
He said with the new strategy, over 30 youths from the community have been employed as surveillance guards.
He said; “Before their arrival, Shell was not even having any drop of oil. As they took over from Shell at least we can boast that we are giving them, if not 100% then 80% from along this pipeline route. So they are trying in terms of security”, Nwagbara stated.
At Norkpo community in Tai LGA in Ogoniland, hosting the 24-inch Trans National Pipeline TNP and 28-inch Bonny loop line, he said, the pipeline surveillance has not only helped to end illegal bunkering but also fostered peace among the communities.
Rating the performance of the surveillance contractor handling the Ogoni axis, a traditional ruler, HRH Augustine Aminikpo, said since pipeline infrastructure came into the community two years ago they have witnessed sustainable peace in the area and illegal bunkering activities has become a thing of the past.
According to him; “Before they came in, you cannot wash and keep outside because of soot generated from illegal bunkering activities in this are. But now, the bunkering activities have reduced. and the soot that was staining our clothes
“Then, SPDC could not pump crude, but due to efforts of PINL they are pumping 24 hours now. They can pump one month. They have made peace to reign in Ogoni axis, they engage the youths, they empower the youths and traditional rulers. They even engage the people that the pipeline did not pass through there lands, like people of Okrika, Ogu, Wakama”.
He added; “In some communities they engage 20, some 30, some 40. The contractor covers 3 LGAs in Ogoni and in each of these areas, they employ over 200 persons. For now, those boys that were involved in bunkering activities have forgotten about bunkering and joined in securing the pipelines to make sure that there is peace”.
The Youth Leader of the community, Osaro Barisua corroborated the Paramount Ruler adding that the coming of the Pipeline Infrastructure had improved the quality of life in the community with employment to many youths, ending the emission soot that threatened the health of the people and provision of gift items to especially the monarchs.
He said the unprecedented cordial relationship with the traditional rulers earned them their support. “No contractor that ever worked on this line ever did that and because of that all the Paramount Rulers sat up to ensure that this line is secure.
As for Chief Superintendent (CP) Audu Boniface, Head of the Civil Defense Special Forces from National Headquarters, Abuja attached to the Zone 3 Owaza Camp, they are on 24/7 surveillance of pipelines and well heads across Owaza in Abia state and Rivers State as part of their statutory functions.
Explaining the scope of their job he said; “We have precisely 130 well heads in Owaza and Odogwa. They are up to 80 functioning actively both in Owaza and Odogwa all feeding the Trans Niger pipeline. We have spent about 4 months here and so far, so good. So many arrests have been made and so many prosecutions of the illegal bunkerers/Oil thieves”.
“The threats that we have on regular basis is that the locals here, on daily bases try to attack the facilities. Some of them, you arrest them and almost immediately another group will spring up. So we don’t sleep on our jobs here, we don’t close our eyes on pipelines and well heads across board here.
“Everyday, every minute you will see them trying to tamper with the line and we have been preventing them from doing so.
“I’m very happy that we have made serious achievements here because our presence here scares them away, and we are not resting on our oars. “Right from Ibaa to Rundele, Kpo and Owaza, in Odogwa, we have made more than 50 arrests. Some have been prosecuted and some released on bail for lack of adequate evidence to prosecute them”.
The Operational Director of Pipeline Infrastructure explained that the Owaza, and Norkpo in Ogoni is just a small portion of the Port Harcourt section of Eastern corridor of the security surveillance covered by Pipeline Infrastructure, PINL.
He said that due to the PINL Strategic deployment and Operations in the Eastern corridor the company made a 100% recovery of the 8” Nkali flow-station – Imo River II manifold pipeline from historical illegal connection/leak points and historical clamped point.
“All infringement/clamps were removed and point saddle welded. The pipeline is currently transferring and receiving crude oil feedstocks from the Nkali flow station – Imo River manifold – Ogale manifolds.
“We made 100% recovery of the Isinmiri delivery line and 95% recovery along the dual trunklines on the Imo River II – Ogale Manifold pipeline, both pipeline are operational with 95% receipt at Ogale manifold since commencement of PINL operation till date.
“Prior to PINL engagement, the delivery lines were abandoned in place due to multiple infringement and incessant leaks.
PINL strategic deployment and covert operations is gradually turning the Zone 3 axis of the Trans-Niger pipeline to historical hotspot and has ensure continuous crude oil flow through the Imo river – Ogale pipelines, among many other major achievements.