Warri, Kaduna refineries shut
• As vandals blow up pipelines
• Buhari vows to crush militants
• Minister orders arrest of masterminds
• Military takes over Tompolo’s hometown
• Reps block moves to stop probe of oil swap deal
AS a fallout of the attack on some oil and gas pipelines in Gbaramatu area of Delta State by suspected militants at the weekend, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has shut down the Kaduna and Warri refineries.
The development threatens government’s efforts at reducing fuel importation at a time when the local refining seems to be gaining momentum.
Besides, President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that his administration would tackle resurgent militancy, oil theft and vandalism of oil pipelines and other forms of insecurity in the Niger Delta region.
It was learnt that the 125,000 barrels per day (bpd) Warri Refinery resumed production in November 2015, while the 110,000 bpd Kaduna Refinery began operations in December. The nation has four refineries, in Port Harcourt (old and new), Warri and Kaduna, which according to the last NNPC reports, produced about seven million barrels of crude in 11 months in 2015. This poor performance was linked to sabotage and vandalism.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Ohi Alegbe, yesterday confirmed that the company has shut down crude oil flows to the two pipelines due to the recent attacks on the facilities. “We have shut down flows for now, the military are on top of the matter,” he said, without offering details of the attacks.
Some unidentified gunmen had at the weekend bombed some oil and gas facilities in Gbaramatu, allegedly in protest against the reported arrest warrant issued on the former militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo). No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Joint Task Force Commander of Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta, Major General Alani Okunola, said the task force was closing in on the militants that blew up the oil and gas pipelines belonging to the Nigeria Gas Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited and NNPC.
Speaking at an interactive forum with members of the Nigerian community in Abu Dhabi, Buhari assured the gathering that his administration would deal decisively with the seeming resurgence of oil theft, vandalism of pipelines and insecurity in the Niger Delta.
Declaring that the Nigerian armed forces had already dealt “deadly blows” on Boko Haram, the president said that the activities of oil thieves and vandals would soon be brought to an end. “The oil thieves and abductors are a less problematic target. We will re-organise and deal with them.”
The Minister of Defence, Brig Gen. Monsur Dan-Ali, yesterday ordered the military to ensure that those who blew up the Escravos-Warri-Lagos gas pipelines are arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law.
The minister who visited the scene where suspected militants blew up the pipeline described the action as unpatriotic and carried out at a time the nation was yearning for steady gas supply to power its power plant.
After inspecting the scene, he said a high calibre improvised explosive device was used to blow up the pipeline. “This is an IED explosion. I believe it was planned due to the magnitude of the destruction. This type of destruction must be stopped by the security agencies.” He said he had been briefed by the JTF commander who said he was on top of the matter and promised that those behind the act would be apprehended
A team of heavily armed military personnel from the Joint Task Force (JTF) has been deployed in Gbaramatu in Warri South West Local Council to forestall possible upsurge in militancy following the threat to arrest Tompolo by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged financial impropriety.
Gbaramàtu, the hometown of the ex-militant Tompolo, was the scene of a bloody confrontation between the military and the heavily armed militants who finally agreed to sheathe their swords as a result of the amnesty programme of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua a few years ago.
The Delta State government, however, assured residents of the oil-rich community which is located deep in the creeks of the Niger Delta region that the presence of a large number of heavily armed military personnel in the area was not intended to cause panic or harm.
Meanwhile, there was a mild drama yesterday as a group, the Centre of Rule of Law (CRL) attempted to stop members of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee from probing oil swap deals involving the NNPC/Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) and oil trading companies.
Shortly after Speaker Yakubu Dogara kicked off proceedings of the Zakari Mohammed led ad-hoc committee, an official of the CRL, Mr. Samuel Ogala, drew the attention of the lawmakers to the need to halt the investigation hearing since his group had lodged a suit in a court of law to stop the probe of the matter. Ogala argued that it was incumbent on him to notify the lawmakers on the need to stay action pending the determination of the subsisting suit on the issue, adding that going ahead with the proceedings would tantamount to a breach of the rule of law.