Abuja — The Nigerian Natural Resource Charter, NNRC, has lamented the unending scourge of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in Nigeria, stating that proceeds from the illicit activity had been fueling crimes in the Niger Delta and is also being used to finance local and regional elections in the region.
In a presentation at the stakeholders’ engagement seminar on advocacy against crude oil theft, organized by the New Nigerian Foundation, NNF, a consultant to the NNRC, Mr. Niyi Awodeyi, disclosed that it had been observed over the years, that prior to any election in Nigeria, crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism skyrocket in the country.
He also stated that oil theft tends to rise during periods of high crude oil prices and in periods of increased production, as well as when militants groups are signaling the need for renegotiation of their amnesty payoffs.
He blamed the rising trend of crude oil theft in the absence of a comprehensive law or agency dealing with pipeline security, as well as the fact that several organizations overlap with each limited roles.
Awodeyi further highlighted the rise in the decentralized role of various agencies involved to curb the challenge; as well as acts and laws that were not in line with current realities.
He listed the social impact of crude oil thefts to include a decline in school enrollments, as most of the children instead of focusing on their education are attracted to the crude oil theft business; health risks associated with close proximity to oil theft have terribly impacted the lives of the people.
Awodeyi noted that the life expectancy of the average Niger-Delta inhabitant had dropped to 40 years compared to 54.5 years national average; consumption of contaminated food with high levels of traceable metals and hydrocarbons poses another health risk; and increased possibility of child malnutrition.
On the security and socio-political impact, he added that the advent of bush refineries had caused unrest and threat of violence due to control rights, high registration fees; control rights infighting had led to arms proliferation among rival gangs; while there was considerable local support for these gangs due to underdevelopment of the region and minimal government support and infrastructure.
He further pinpointed complicity by highly placed civilians and military personnel, who most times secures release of arrested vandals.
The consultant added that crude oil theft has led to the loss of economic activities and jobs to neighboring countries due to insecurity; displacement of civilians due to clashes between militants and military forces, with their properties destroyed during clashes and the high-handed approach of the Joint Task Force, which he said was causing social tensions.
He further listed the benefits of curbing oil theft to include increased oil production and export, increase in revenue thus allowing for economic diversification investments, adding that curbing the menace would free up the military and other security personnel and also return stability to the region and boost investments.