Pipeline vandalism and constructive engagement
Pipeline vandals have been with us for decades and the business of rupturing pipelines conveying fuel to depots just so as to trap a good quantity for quick money has blossomed over the years for lack of requisite will to nip the criminal act in the bud. Nigeria has enough laws, enough law enforcement agencies and more than enough oversight agencies.
Why then would such a criminal act thrive with so much resources being paid by the taxpayer and drafted to checkmate criminal acts like this? It would appear the criminals have a well knitted cobweb of a network that sucks in or better still conscripts the measures put in place to fight the menace and render it useless.
In the last order, this criminal act was responsible for the loss of about 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, BPD that continued for two years without any major arrests made. If we look at an mean figure of $100/barrel, we will get a picture of how many billions were lost in the process.
This startling revelation was made by the Finance Minister in that order, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. Besides hundreds of illegal refineries sprang up with reckless abandon and worse still, the security of pipelines was awarded at billions of Naira to some indigenes of the area in spite of the fact that the country’s security men were not on strike! On top of all these measures, there was no respite perhaps because the crude oil market was booming and money was flowing in from all directions.
Now that the most significant contributor to Nigeria’s economy, crude oil, has crashed from its glorious days to its sorry days and money is coming in trickles, necessity has suddenly become the progenitor of invention!
The new order has neither the room for illegal contracts nor the money to sustain it. It is in the light of this that the present service chiefs need to be acknowledged for their modest contributions in helping to sanitise the polity. Granted, they are doing their constitutional duties but so were those before them and those that will take over from them.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and his boys have succeeded in drastically reducing the number of illegal crude oil refineries scattered all over the country. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar has demonstrated his professionalism by personally flying a fighter jet over the tempestuous Sambisa forest and thereafter, compensating the domiciled extremists with a rain of bombs! Such adventures have since continued unabated. The Air Force equally partook in the joint operations that decimated an empire of dare devil pipeline vandals who have, for years, colonised Arepo community in Ogun State. The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, has left no one in doubt of his capabilities in the way he has revived the morale of the soldiers through constant motivations all of which have resulted in an army of results more than that of excuses! Pipeline vandalism has since dropped to an average of 93,333 BPD between January and June of the year, according to the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. It is hoped to further reduce as constructive engagement consolidates.
At the advent of the present order came the birth of a group of people who called themselves the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA. Their objective is to avenge the injustice they claim was done the Niger Delta region by grounding all the energy assets of the country in order to attract accelerated development to the region! At a time when the international market price of crude oil has crashed to about $40/barrel, at a time when some of the international consumers of Nigeria’s oil are looking elsewhere, at a time when the country is beginning to diversify away from oil, at a time when Nigeria’s external savings have plummeted, at a time when pipeline vandalism results in the pollution of the rivers in the area, at a time the rest of the world is making inroads into alternative energy, it is certain the resolve of the NDA is one stroke too many.
They succeeded in blowing several pipelines as well as several crude oil export terminals. While this was on, the Federal government, Governors/opinion leaders in the region and every men of goodwill appealed to them to embrace dialogue, but it would appear they were not agreed on that.
The Federal Government of Nigeria was prevailed upon both from within and without to embrace dialogue in order not to inflame the crisis. Government obliged while the wanton destruction of its assets went on. Now that the NDA have succeeded in blowing almost everything to smithereens, they are now agreed on dialogue! Much as this sounds like a poisoned chalice, the ceasefire declared by the group should be used in fixing all the damaged pipelines while the security chiefs find proactive ways of mitigating against future re-occurrences. While dialogue is ongoing, our army of results should continue to police the pipelines in such a manner as to secure them from the army of predators! Development cannot thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and so, where dialogue fails, perhaps peace can be enforced through sustained, consolidated and constructive engagement!
. Kayode Adeoye is an energy expert in Lagos.