Security for Nigeria’s Hydrocarbon Infrastructure: Wanted, Urgently!
By Mahmud Abdulsalam
At a media briefing on January 6, 2022, Acting Director, Defence Media Operations, DMO, Bernard Onyeuko, revealed how the Nigerian military is tackling crimes in the South South, a region whose bowel is gifted with Nigeria’s crude.
He said troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, deployed for Operation Delta Safe, working in conjunction with other security agencies, recorded remarkable results in their efforts against economic sabotage and other sundry crimes in the South-South Zone.
In the South South, the menace of oil theft, bunkering, pipeline vandalism, among other economic crimes, are rife.
Between May 20, 2021 and January 6, 2022, Onyeuko, a Major General, said troops discovered and immobilized a cumulative total of 145 illegal refining sites, 209 ovens, 122 cooking pots/boilers, 161 cooling systems, 224 reservoirs, 160 large dugout pits and 367 storage tanks in the Niger Delta Region.
While speaking further at the briefing held at the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, in Abuja, he disclosed that a total of 12,846,300 litres of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil, as well as 29,237 barrels and 6,491,000 litres of stolen crude oil were recovered within the period.
“Similarly, a total of 3,969,000 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene; and 10,200,500 litres of illegally refined Premium Motor Spirit were recovered by troops of Operation DELTA SAFE.
“Additionally, troops recovered 33 assorted arms; 5,268 rounds of different calibres of ammunition and 21 AK-47 rifle magazines, while 3,110 bags of 50kg foreign parboiled smuggled rice, 662 pieces of galvanized pipes, 32 tanker trucks and 119 wooden boats used for illegal oil bunkering activities were impounded and handled appropriately in the course of the operations.
“Also, a total of 41 kidnapped victims were rescued, while 77 criminal elements associated with pipeline vandalism, piracy, illegal oil bunkering and armed robbery were arrested within the period. All the arrested criminals and recovered items have been handed over to relevant security agencies for further action,” he said.
Aside the Delta Safe Troops in South South, troops of Operation Awatse, in the South West, are pummelling criminals and economic saboteurs, according to Gen. Onyeuko.
At the same briefing, the DMO Acting Director, said military troops of Operation Awatse successfully forestalled criminal activities, between May 2021 and December of the same year.
Hear him: “In the course of the operations, troops impounded a total of 1,458,600 litres of illegally refined Premium Motor Spirit; 9,345 barrels of stolen crude oil and 355,000 litres illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil. Additionally, troops recovered a total of 1,594 rounds of ammunition and 14 assorted rifles.
“Also, within the period, a total of 15 illegal refining sites were immobilized, while 12 boats and 13 trucks engaged in illegal activities were arrested. In the same vein, within the period 15 kidnapped civilians were rescued, while 28 criminal elements were arrested.”
Successive Nigerian governments have launched various kinds of programmes to rid Niger Delta, the country’s oil producing region, of criminal activities.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s government unveiled an amnesty programme for aggrieved and violent militant groups in the creeks.
In particular, military exercises such as Awatse and Delta, were launched with the sole purpose of tackling oil thieves, bunkerers, pipeline vandals, and sea pirates, whose atrocious activities is affecting the nation’s oil production capacity.
As part of measures to tackle the aforementioned criminal activities, Gen. Leo Irabor, is also engaging with relevant stakeholders towards finding permanent solutions to woes plaguing the country’s oil and gas industry.
Irabor who wants adequate security to be provided the nation’s hydrocarbon infrastructure, has solicited sustainable collaboration among stakeholders in the value chain of the oil and gas industry.
His appeal was made in Abuja during a meeting with Governors of the oil and gas producing states.
Heads of security agencies, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, as well as CEOs of the Upstream and Downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, were also part of the forum.
The meeting, which was mandated by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, was to consider a framework for reversing dwindling oil production occasioned by oil theft, illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism, amongst other economic crimes.
General Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), said the nation’s economy was bleeding as oil production had become abysmally low, thereby adversely affecting the national economy and that of the oil producing states alike.
He added that, environmental degradation and health challenges thrown up by pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and refining, is negatively affect the wellbeing of many communities, due to pollution of water bodies, land and air, giving rise to a cycle of poverty and diseases.
Accordingly, General Irabor said he decided to lead the heads of the security and intelligence agencies, as well as CEOs of oil and gas regulatory bodies to engage with Governors of the concerned states.
“So, given that the issues demand quick action as mandated by Mr President, we have come to engage with you,” he said.
The resultant framework from the engagement, he added, would involve the whole of society and that, it would be a win-win situation for all stakeholders, including the host communities.
He further addressed the Governors that, ‘as critical stakeholders, … to address the current challenges, you will be playing a crucial part’ in the industry-wide security of the hydro-carbon infrastructure and overall oil production capacity of the country.
In his words, “I am here with all the heads of security agencies, CEO NNPC Limited and other government agencies that are playing a very key role in the oil and gas sector.’’
The Defence Chief pointed out that the responsibility of the Armed Forces and security agencies was to provide security across the space, including the oil and gas sector.
“The collaboration of the Governors and host communities was however, pivotal to the successful accomplishment of the constitutional roles of the Armed Forces and other security agencies,” he said.
Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, while speaking on behalf of the governors, thanked the President for mandating the engagement.
According to him, the Governors of the oil producing states were equally worried about the level of economic sabotage in the oil and gas industry, which had caused reduced revenues, as well as environmental and health challenges for the states.
He believed that, at the end of the meeting, a framework for collaboration amongst all stakeholders would be crafted for the benefit of all.
Dr Okowa expressed the commitment of his colleagues to contribute meaningfully towards a collaborative framework that would guarantee greater prosperity for the nation, the states and host communities.
The other Governors that attended the meeting were: Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Douye Diri of Bayelsa State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Heads of security agencies that attended the meeting include; Inspector General of Police, Mr Alkali Baba, Director General National Intelligence Agency, Mr Ahmed Abubakar and Commandant General Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Dr Audi Ahmed.
The Chief of Defence Intelligence at the Defence Intelligence Agency, Chief of Defence Training and Operations at Defence Headquarters and his counterparts in the Services Headquarters were all in attendance during the event.
Mahmud Abdulsalam is Assistant Editor PRNigeria
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