How Nigeria loses $12bn annually to oil thieves – Okonjo-Iweala
• Shell says oil theft, illegal refining has reached ‘unprecedented level’ in Niger Delta
• JTF impounds laden vessel, arrests 21 suspects in 8 days
Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has revealed how the country is losing the whopping sum of $12 billion that ought to have accrued to the national coffers annually as revenues.
Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – World Bank met inWashington DC, United States of America (USA), estimates that the Nigerian Government loses $1 billion monthly in revenues to oil thieves.
Oil companies in Nigeria are battling a surge in crude oil theft, and it has been estimated that Africa’s top oil exporter loses about $6 billion annually in revenues due to bunkering.
Oil theft, commonly known in Nigeria as bunkering, is a lucrative black market in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
Oil theft involves siphoning crude from pipelines into makeshift vessels, commonly called Cotonou boats, for onward movement to illegal local refineries or for discharge into prowling merchant tankers for shipment to locations further afield within and outside the country.
The huge business that bunkering has become is wreaking havoc on Nigeria’s investment profile, the operations of international oil companies in thye country.
The Managing Director of Shell’s Nigerian division, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, has said that the “massive and growing problem of oil theft and illegal refining in the Niger Delta … has reached unprecedented levels.” Sunmonu stated in an open letter published on Shell’s website that the size of the problem indicated a “well finance and highly organised criminal enterprise” that uses “influence, corruption and violence to protect (its) interest.”
Shell reportedly plans to shut one pipeline this month to combat theft.
Italy’s largest energy group Eni SpA last month declared force majeure and ordered the closure of its onshore activities in the Swamp Area, located in Bayelsa State.
This decision, according to the company, was made due to “intensified bunkering, consisting in the sabotage of pipelines and the theft of crude oil, which has recently reached unsustainable levels regarding both personal safety and damage to the environment.”
Meanwhile, the Joint, Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield Sunday said that it impounded a vessel allegedly laden with some 2,500 tonnes of crude at Okuboto creek in Bayelsa.
Spokesperson of the body, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwackukwu, said in Yenagoa that the arrest was made in continuation of the JTF’s anti-oil theft raids. Nwachukwu said that the vessel was allegedly on the verge of filling the fourth of her compartments before she was intercepted by operatives from the JTF Sector 2.
He explained that the vessel is currently in custody of Headquarters Sector 2 for preliminary investigations prior to prosecution.
He revealed also that a barge, allegedly engaged in oil theft activities, has been impounded along Golubo Creek of Bayelsa State while conveying suspected stolen petroleum product.
The crew, according to the JTF spokesperson, fled into the mangrove forest on sighting the JTF, abandoning their barge.
The barge has been towed to AGIP Brass Terminal for safe custody while preliminary investigation is ongoing to identify the owners.
In another anti-oil theft raid operation in Delta by troops of the JTF, 30 boats conveying alleged illegally refined petroleum products were intercepted along Aruton and Ugborodo communities.
He explained that the boats were allegedly arrested loaded with plastic tanks filled with suspected stolen petroleum product.
The JTF also recovered other items, including 11 hand gloves, one packet of electrode, a bunch of clips and two pumping machines.
Nwachukwu said that the operation, which lasted from April 7 to 14, 2013, saw the destruction of eight suspected illegal crude oil refinery camps along Oboro, Kpukpugbene in Burutu and Sagara, near Escravos in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta.
Also nine steel tanks and 187 large plastic reservoirs allegedly used by the suspected oil thieves to perpetrate the crime at the camp sites were destroyed at the various sites where they were discovered.
Nwachukwu said that 21 suspects, arrested in various crime locations, were currently undergoing preliminary investigations in various sectors of the task force and would be subsequently handed over to prosecuting agencies.