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Trans forcados pipeline and defence of national interest

By Femi Ayelabowo
18 January 2019   |   1:50 am
The battle for the soul of Nigeria is perpetually a contest between good and evil, light and darkness. But, as a renowned 18th century philosopher and politician, Edmund Burke, once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The battle for the soul of Nigeria is perpetually a contest between good and evil, light and darkness. But, as a renowned 18th century philosopher and politician, Edmund Burke, once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The truth is, nations that have succeeded against retrogressive forces largely because some good men and women did something positive in different spheres.

The latest rumble, by economic saboteurs, to reinvent failure of surveillance and security on the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP), which is a critical national asset, could be appropriately situated in this context in which the forces of good are compelled to respond in obligatory defence of national interest.  The interest that the individual stakeholder promotes and projects determines the side it belongs: whether it is progressive or retrogressive.

In fact, the retrogressive forces have been brazen in their effort to ensure the retention of the old order of sleaze and waste that poses real threats to the national economy. Will the retrogressive forces prevail over the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the battle to remove the surveillance of the TFP from the clutches of an inefficient entity?

For decades, the Nigerian oil industry has been perpetually made a jungle of monumental rip-offs. Transparency and accountability have been sacrificed for opaqueness, conspiracy and corruption. It will not be out of place to conclude that there are “oil demons” in Nigeria, because only such a term could qualify the battle to keep TFP in a state of criminal abuse. Such a rigid and open resistance to doing what is right and just in the oil industry is demonic and scandalous.

The raging battle to keep TFP in a state of jeopardy is entirely worrisome. There is absolutely no sense in sustaining a failed contract that had persistently made the NNPC to pay for inefficiency while the Corporation and the nation bleed through the pipes. There comes a time in the affairs of a nation when an absolute stop is put to abominable feasting and critical decisions are taken to end wastage. Nigeria and other stakeholders cannot survive the conspiracy against the TFP if the NNPC leaves the surveillance and security of the critical national asset in the hands of oil marauders and jackals.

How do we, as a country, explain and account for a loss of 11 million barrels of crude oil (equivalent to $800m) in 2018, just because of the inefficiency of a surveillance firm, Eraskorp Nigeria Limited? Shall we continue to pay for and reinvent the failure of a “hapless contractor that has presided over the abject surveillance and security of the TFP?” Certainly, the NNPC has taken an audacious and patriotic position on the TFP in the overall interest of the country and it should not be deterred or worried about the heavily-induced distractions both locally and internationally.

If Shoreline Natural Resources Limited cannot dispense with the services of Eraskorp, which has become an unmitigated disaster in the face of its recurring dismal performances, then it should not blame the NNPC for electing to give the TFP contract to another indigenous firm with a proven track record in surveillance and security of pipelines. It is important that value for service and the need to adopt international best practices must no longer be compromised in the oil sector, and especially by the NNPC.

Notwithstanding the smear messages and campaign of calumny against the NNPC and the proposed new contractor, Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited, I will urge both parties to proceed to agree to the contractual framework and sign the necessary papers evidencing agreement. Stakeholders and Nigerians who are abreast of the development around the TFP would be most excited about the choice of OMS. It is reputed for successfully eliminating illegal bunkering and oil theft on the Escravos – Warri and Bonny – Port Harcourt Crude Oil Pipelines. This is a no mean feat by an indigenous firm.

In the interest of stability, efficiency and value for money, OMS is hereby urged to accept NNPC’s invitation to take over the responsibility for the security of the TFP. Perusing its profile, there is no element of doubt in its capacity to put an end to the criminal abuse of another key part of our strategic national infrastructure. The illegal racketeering by vested interests on the TFP must stop, and this could be done by such logical and audacious step as has been taken by the NNPC to get OMS to secure the pipeline.

In the face of the unwarranted sponsored attacks against OMS, those who have a deep knowledge of the oil industry will even sympathise with the firm over the delicate nature of the latest contract. While the loss arising from illegal oil bunkering had always been shifted to NNPC in the past, under the proposed contract, OMS is obligated to protect the lines and is accountable for any breach to the pipeline and losses of crude. This is a huge responsibility, considering the volatile terrain and nature of securing the pipelines.

In the old order, the contractor (Eraskorp) was paid for surveillance duties and totally exempted from repair costs or any other form of responsibility in the event of any break or breach to the pipeline for which the company had been contracted to watch over. This is what the NNPC is saying it cannot continue to bear because it is in a way scandalous and has no value to the country. But for those who had profited hitherto from this unsustainable wasteful venture, it must be business as usual. And anything that wants to end the bazaar must be viciously resisted. 

But if we are really desirable of cleansing the Augean Stables and putting an end to oil banditry (illegal bunkering), we must be prepared to stand up to those who want to keep us in the jungle where there is no value for anything. There is nothing bad in making a mistake or discovering that certain arrangement is no longer serving the interest of the people and the nation, and thus working patriotically to correct it. However, what is unacceptable is to sustain inefficiency and reinforce failure. It is inimical to national security and economic stability to allow the inefficiency what was happening under Eraskorp Nigeria Limited as security service providers to continue. While the firm and their collaborators could elect to continue with their pathetic and malicious falsehoods for all they care, at the domestic and international levels, the truth remains that no serious nation can sustain or tolerate this heist in the oil sector. Affliction should not be allowed to arise the second. 
Mr. Ayelabowo, is a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ibadan.