The federal government has announced the arrest of 210 suspects in its efforts to crack down on crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the figure Friday in Port-Harcourt after carrying out an aerial assessment of certain hot spots along the right-of-way of the Trans-Niger gas pipeline.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister, accompanied by a few journalists in the watch, also covered the Nembe Creek mainline leading to the Bonny oil and gas terminal which has been under force majeure since March 2022.
Briefing reporters after the 90-minute aerial investigation, the minister also revealed that the continued efforts of government security agencies led to the confiscation of 20.2 million liters of automotive gas oil (AGO), diesel.
According to the minister, more than 461,000 liters of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol), 843,000 liters of DPK dual-purpose kerosene and 383,000 barrels of crude oil were confiscated.
He said an additional 365 illegal refining sites had been destroyed, with around 1,054 refining furnaces, 1,210 metal storage tanks, 838 pits and 346 tanks also destroyed.
Mohammed said the activities of vandals and economic saboteurs had severely affected Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas production.
“Since the post-pandemic recovery in crude oil prices, Nigeria has been unable to meet its OPEC production quota, which has hurt the Nigerian economy.
“Due to the nefarious activities of the vandals, Nigeria lost production of approximately 700,000 barrels of oil per day.
“This volume is split between stolen crude and postponement of production (closures) due to the legitimate fear of losing substantial volumes in transit.
“Terminal revenue has been steadily declining, leading to decisions such as force majeure declared at the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal in March 2022,” he said.
To verify the activities of saboteurs, the Minister said that NNPC Ltd has implemented a new security architecture to serve as a robust response to detect, deter and respond to the activities of vandals.
He said the security architecture leveraged collaboration between upstream operators, industry regulators, government security agencies (GSAs), and private security contractors (PSCs).
The Minister said that as per the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, Private Security Companies (PSCs) with the required capabilities have been engaged.
He said PSCs to provide community oversight in oil producing areas have been identified and engaged after extensive review by the DSS and EFCC.
They must also provide local intelligence on all illegal oil businesses taking place in the region and security monitoring services for safe and transparent operations along the country’s pipeline networks.
The minister added that the command and control center of NNPC Ltd. was set up to monitor around the clock oil operations and activities in the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone.
According to him, all vessel movements within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone as well as all ship-to-ship activities within the same zone are monitored/
The Command and Center, according to the Minister, has also launched various online tools to enable public participation in the fight against crude oil theft.
The tools included, Whistle Blowing Portal, for patriotic Nigerians to report illegal activities and Crude Sales Document Validation Portal, to validate all raw sales documents.
He said the center also has an incident management and reporting app and is developing a vessel reporting app.
Mohammed reiterated that the federal government is determined to end crude oil losses.
NAN reports that the team transmitted on aerial surveillance in two Sikorsky S76D helicopters witnessed firsthand a number of illegal refineries destroyed by the military.
NAN also reports that during the monitoring, the team also saw first-hand a high level of damage to the environment, as a result of the activities of economic saboteurs. (NOPE)