From Uche Usim, Abuja
In a fresh effort to rescue the economy from asphyxiation, the Federal Government has taken the battle against crude oil theft a notch higher by retooling security agencies stationed in oil producing communities across the Niger Delta region.
The move also comes with the establishment of a command and control centre that monitors the entire activities of the crude oil production value chain; from drilling to shipment to designated markets.
Also on the cards is a whistleblower policy that protects and financially rewards those who offer credible information that leads to the arrest of both the crude oil thieves and pipeline vandals.
Another strategy is cementing diplomatic ties with a host countries that are to ring the alarm bells whenever vessels with stolen crude from Nigeria are spotted on their shores.
These were the takeaways from a strategic meeting held between the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and security agencies on the need to urgently restore crude oil production to optimum level, while guaranteeing adequate security for the operators who signed new oil Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with the Federal Government at the weekend.
Security sources informed Daily Sun that the Federal Government was determined, more than ever, to address the unprecedented oil theft as the unfortunate development has become a sink or swim situation for the country.
“There have been postings and repostings. There is also acquisition of facilities to take on these oil thieves. We now have better communication and coordination and we are making progress. We are making arrests, destroying illegal refineries and impounding barges and vessels. This is for the good of the country. We’re taking on vested interests and no going back on that. I can’t tell you those involved for security reasons, but it’s no longer business as usual,” a security source told Daily Sun.
A report by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Independent Petroleum Producers Group, showed that from January 2021 to February 2022, Nigeria lost $3.2 billion to crude oil theft. Over $1 billion was lost in the first three months of the year.
The ugly development, according to the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has been frustrating the efforts of the government to attract fresh investments into the oil and gas space, despite the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act. He added that Nigeria loses 400,000 barrels per day to the menace, warning that if not checked, could completely crash the economy, as it survives largely on crude oil proceeds.
However, the new PSCs ride on the amicable resolution of all pending industry disputes, in an effort to develop and monetize over 10 billion barrels of crude, with the capability to generate revenue in excess of $500 billion to stakeholders and ultimately attain energy security for the country.