National Economic Council recommends adequate protection of pipelines

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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The National Economic Council NEC, has called for more stringent measures against oil theft in the Niger Delta area of the country, to avoid perpetual loss of revenue to the country.

Edo State Governor and Chairman of the ad-hoc committee on pipeline vandalism, Godwin Obaseki made this known to Journalists while briefing on Thursday’s NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

According to the Governor, in the course of its assignment, the committee discovered that 22.6 million barrels of crude oil valued at approximately $1.35 billion was lost during the first half of this year.

He said: “The 13-member ad-hoc-committee chaired by me, submitted its report to the NEC today. The committee was constituted to address the impact of vandalization, oil theft, illegal bunkering on oil production. It was also to check the effectiveness of the activities of the joint task force and other security agencies in curbing the menace of oil theft. And also, to consider the setting up of a special court to prosecute offenders amongst others.

“The terms of reference of the ad-hoc committee is to include restoring and sustaining the four major trunk pipelines which moves crude oil to the terminals, to access the challenges and draw up a road map to guide further actions towards finding a lasting solution towards the problem. The committee could co-opt individuals to facilitate its work and we are supposed to update council regularly.

“The ad-hoc committee discovered that there were huge losses. In fact, the NNPC reported to the committee that the 22.6 million barrels of crude oil valued at approximately $1.35 billion was lost during the first half of this year. And if this situation is not contained in two years, we would have lost in excess of $2.7 billion.

The losses that were recorded in the first half of the year were broken down as follows:

“The Nembe creek trunk-line lost 9.2 million barrel, the Trans-Niger pipeline lost 8.6 million barrel, the Trans-Focadoes Pipeline lost 3.9 million barrel, Trans-Escravos pipe  we lost 877,000 barrel.”

Obaseki said more needs to be done in the area of maintaining vigilance as well of protection of the pipelines, which are national assets.

“The ad-hoc-committee reported that the governance structure of the pipeline is such today that no one is held accountable whenever there are bridges and when these losses occur. 

“That the slow and inadequate prosecution of thieves despite numerous arrests and seizures have continued to encourage this menace,” he said.

The Edo state Governor said the committee observed that the absence of petroleum products filling stations in most of the oil producing communities around the Niger Delta make them resort to illegal bunkering and illegal refineries.

“That huge internal and external market of stolen products exist across the west coast of Africa and also the subregion,” he said.

Recommendations

Governor Obaseki said the ad-hoc committee made the following recommendations to NEC:

-That there is need to restructure the maintenance and ownership of oil pipelines as a way of tackling the perpetrators of crude and other products.

-That we should have a legal framework that will ensure that criminals are duly prosecuted, imprisoned and their assets confiscated.

-That there should be special courts to trial offenders and also have a special legal task force to coordinate the prosecution of arrested offenders as well as trained special judges to handle cases of oil theft.

-That NNPC should be encouraged to engage with the national intelligence agency (NIA) to identify the markets for stolen petroleum products across the continent.

-That the Governors of the oil producing states should set up actions to develop the communities that are most prone and through which these pipelines run with their 13 percent derivation allocation as well as implement programmes that will be impactful and make life easy for the people.

-It noted that the NDDC in the Niger Delta Development Corporation which has the mandate to undertake development in this region should be restructured to perform its role better.

-That they should emphasis creating employment opportunities for young people and youths in the region.

-That the proposed funding arrangement to be jointly funded by the federal, states and the oil companies to ensure the communities through which these pipeline traverse get some benefits to encourage them to protect these lines.

“Therefore, council resolved as follows:

That recommendations should be presented to the President, who is also the Minister of petroleum for the final decision for implementation.

 “The Chairman of council also asked the NNPC to make a presentation to council on the state of PMS and other products which are smuggled across the borders,” Obaseki added.