Federal Government Arrests 210 Suspected Oil Thieves

The Federal Government has reported the arrest of 210 people as part of its fight against crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.

Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, revealed the number on Friday in Port-Harcourt after conducting an aerial inspection of several hotspots along the Trans-Niger Pipeline’s Right of Way.

The minister covered the Nembe Creek Trunk Line that ascends to the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal, which has been under force majeure since March 2022, while being observed by media.

After the 90-minute aerial survey, Mr. Mohammed briefed the media. He also revealed that the security agencies’ ongoing efforts had resulted in the seizure of 20.2 Million liters of automotive gas oil (AGO), diesel.

The minister reported that 383,000 barrels of crude oil and more than 461,000 liters each of dual-purpose kerosene and premium motor spirit were seized.

Additional 365 illegal refinery sites, 1,054 refining furnaces, 1,210 metal storage tanks, 838 dugout pits, and 346 reservoirs, according to him, were also destroyed.

Mr Mohammed said the activities of vandals and economic saboteurs had severely impacted Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas production.

“Since the post-covid pandemic recovery of Crude Oil Prices, Nigeria has been unable to meet its OPEC Production quota, hurting the Nigerian Economy.

“Due to the nefarious activities of vandals, Nigeria has been losing out on producing approximately 700,000 Barrels of oil daily.

“This volume is split between crude stolen and production deferment (shut-ins) due to legitimate fear of losing substantial volumes in transit.

“Terminal receipts have persistently declined, leading to decisions such as the Force Majure declared at the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal in March 2022,” he said.

The minister claimed that NNPC Ltd. has established a new security architecture to act as a strong reaction to identify, prevent, and respond to vandals’ operations in order to check their activities.

He said that the coordination between upstream operators, industry regulators, government security agencies (GSA), and private security contractors was facilitated by the security architecture (PSC).

The minister said that Private Security Contractors (PSCs) with the necessary capabilities were hired in accordance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s consent.

According to him, after thorough vetting by the DSS and EFCC, the PSCs were identified and hired to offer community monitoring within the oil-producing zones.

Throughout with security monitoring services for safe and efficient operations along the country’s pipeline networks, they are also required to give local intelligence on all illegal crude activities taking place in the area.

The minister added that NNPC Ltd.’s Command and Control Centre was set up for round-the-clock monitoring of petroleum operations and activities within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone.

According to him, all vessel movements within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone as well as all Ship-to-ship activities within the same zone are monitored.

The Command and Centre, according to the minister, has also launched various online tools to enable public participation in the fight against crude theft.

The tools included, Whistle Blowing Portal, for patriotic Nigerians to report illegal activities and Crude Sales Document Validation Portal, to validate all crude sales documents.

He said the centre also has Incidence Reporting and Management Application and developing a Vessels Reporting Application, and reiterated the federal government’s determination to put an end to the crude oil losses.

The team conveyed on the aerial surveillance in two Sikorsky S76D Choppers witnessed first-hand a number of illegal refineries destroyed by the military.

In the course of the surveillance, the team also saw first-hand, high levels of damage to the environment, as a result of the activities of the economic saboteurs.