08 March 2015, Lagos – The country’s waterways are currently littered with crude oil and petroleum products seized from oil thieves.
This situation, according to findings by our correspondent, has persisted because Nigeria lacks the capacity to handle the problem.
And worried about the development, the Department of Petroleum Resources recently invited other relevant agencies of the government and concerned stakeholders to a meeting in Lagos to discuss the way out. The Director, DPR, Mr. George Osahon, confirmed this.
According to a source at the DPR in Lagos, the meeting discussed the challenges of evacuating and disposing the seized crude oil and petroleum products.
Nigeria is losing about 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, according to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, also last week estimated the daily crude loss to oil thieves at N1.18bn.
Jibrin stated this while defending the 2015 budget of the Navy before the Senate Committee on Defence, adding that the development was making Nigeria to lose N433.62bn annually.
Although the DPR proposed a set of guidelines to other agencies of government on how to evacuate the seized crude and petroleum products, no consensus was reached at the meeting, it was gathered.
The DPR said it was open to a possible review of the guidelines, and remained committed to efforts at tackling the challenges.
Osahon was quoted as saying, “A standing committee was already set up by the Presidency to harmonise and coordinate efforts of all relevant agencies in this regard. The aim of the meeting was to augment the efforts of the committee set up by the Presidency.”
The DPR boss said the present lack of efficient systems was making it difficult for relevant agencies to effectively coordinate their roles to frontally tackle the problem.
The navy in a report obtained on Friday also observed that the delay in evacuating the seized vessels often posed environmental challenges due to leaks from the vessels.
In addition to this, it maintained that some seized vessels were blocking the waterways and clogging the traffic for waterways users.
But the DPR said the inter-agency committee on crude evacuation would come up with strategies to handle the challenges.
The committee, it said, had also resolved to review the guidelines proposed by the department and return with their inputs on March 11, 2015.
Meanwhile, Jibrin said despite the substantial reduction in the Navy appropriation in 2014, it was able to arrest 84 vessels, and 155 suspected oil thieves.
He also said naval personnel destroyed 120 illegal oil refineries, 29 barges, 93 boats and 1,259 auxiliary equipment and tools used by the oil thieves.
The Governor of Delta State, who is a member of the committee on crude theft set up by the Presidency, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, had told our correspondent in an interview that the Federal Government was leveraging international bodies to trace the movement of stolen crude.
He said, “Eighty per cent of our stolen crude is exported; only 20 per cent is used locally. There are destinations where the products are going to, and we are tracking down the people behind the act.
“Government wants to identify the refineries that use them. We are also using technology to ensure that when pipelines are tampered with, there are signals in the control rooms indicating the locations.”