By Elizabeth Chukwuma
With the rising oil rice in the International market to the 2020 all time of about $100 per barrel may have encouraged Lucky Irabor, an Army General and Chief of Defense Staff, CDS, at the instance of President Muhammmadu, a retired Army General, to lead the service Chiefs and heads of other security agencies to a meeting on Friday, February 19, 2022, with the governors of the oil producing states in Abuja, the Federal capital Territory, FCT.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President who is not happy over what is happening in the Niger Delta region which is currently affecting the country’s daily oil production capacity fears that this may be worse in the months ahead if the activities of oil thieves and the illegal bunkerers in the region were not checkmated. The Nigerian government had projected that the oil price in the international oil project would be within the range of $62 in preparing the 2022 budgetary expenditure and a projected oil production of 1.88 barrels per day as well as revenue expectation of N3.362 trillion from the oil sector.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, had reported that the country’s crude oil production increased by six percent to 1.39 barrels per day in January 2022, as exports grew by an average of 81,000 per day. Although, OPEC, may see the increase as encouraging but the Nigerian President who had based the 2022 budget on 1.88 million barrels per day production may not have seen it as an increas but a big blow to the economy because of the loss of revenue.
Ifeanyi Okowa, a former Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria and now governor of Delta state, who was one of the governors present at the CDS, meeting , had confirmed that the sharp drop in the country’s oil production in January had affected states revenue.
The Delta state governor who could not hide his feelings at the meeting had said that security issues in the Niger Delta region has continued ‘’to trouble the minds of the oil producing states governors’’. He is optimistic that that the CDS initiated meeting will help ”the states to collaborate with the security agencies and check the excesses, which include illegal oil bunkering’’.
The CDS, may not have limited the meeting to be with the oil producing states governors alone as he was said to have also extended the invitation to Mele Kyari, Managing Director, Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation,NNPC, re-baptised Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limi NNPC, Limited,going by the Nigerian Petroeun Industry Bill, PIB, which had been signed into Law by the Retired Army General.
Ahmed Abubakar Audu, Commandant-General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, whose men have been having a running battled with Nyeson Wike, governor of Rivers state for allegedly aiding and abetting the activities of the illegal bunkers in the state was also at the CDS meeting in Abuja.Given the importance attached to the meeting, Usman Alali Baba, Inspector General of Police, IGP, was also present.
Many had expected Wike, the governor of the oil-rich Rivers state to be at the meeting or send a representatives but failed to do so. Even without the CDS, involving the other Niger Delta regional governors in the fight against the oil thieves and illegal bunkerers, Wike, on his own, had championed the cause in the state . He had budgeted N460 million to the 23 Local government Area in the state, meaning that each Chairman would receive N20 million as a way of encouraging them to destroy the illegal bunkering sites in their locality in order to save the nation’s oil industry.
The governor , who was working closely with Friday Eboka, the state Commissioner of Police, last January, had paid an unscheduled visit to the forest of Obodo Community in Emohua Local Government Area of the tate, in an all-out war against the menace of illegal bunkering in the state
. They were said to have uncovered some crude oil refining sites in the area which were destroyed. An Aggrieved governor Wike had repeatedly said that ‘’those behind the illegal bunkering business are not poor people but a cartel, which should give a clue to General Irabor, on how to go about checking mating the excesses of the illegal bunkers in Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross river state.
There is no gain saying the fact that if the other oil –producing states governors had joined Wike in the fight against the oil thieves running illegal refineries in the region, the activities of the illegal oil bunkerers would have been put under control.
While governor Wike of Rivers state has been hard on the illegal bunkerers in the state as many of them were said to have been forced to go underground, the Defense Headquarters had said that troops of Operation Delta Safe, ODS dismantled 39 illegal refining sites and arrested 10 suspects in the region between January 6 and January 20, 2022.
Bernard Onyeuko, a Major General and Director, Defense Media Operations, had said that the ODS troops immobilized 91 cooking Ovens, 21 reservoirs, 17 large dugout pits and 94 storage tanks on the 39 illegal refining sites discovered in the region. The Nigerian Navy, alone, had said that it destroyed 577 illegal refining sites since 2020 across the region but more are still springing up on a daily basis.
Temipre Silva, a former governor of Bayelsa state, and now minister of state, Petroleum Resources may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that ‘’the situation had persisted this long, despite arrests of suspects by the Nigeria Nigerian Joint Security Task Force, confirming what Wike, the Rivers governor had said that” there is a cartel behind these illegal refining sites”.
The Nigerian President has made it clear to those that cares to listen that the government would not relent in its efforts in stepping up the push to quash oil theft activities in the Niger Delta estimated at $4 billion yearly in the hope that the move will strengthen the country’s oil production which has stumbled by over 25%, in the recent time.
He had estimated the naira equivalent of the annual loss to the oil thieves to be about N1.7 trillion, which energy analysts had said was 31.6% bigger than the annual Internally Generated Revenue, IGP, and Federal allocation of the nine oil producing states that produces all the country’s oil, sold in the international oil market to generate revenue.
Gbenga Komolafe, head of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, had said that the oil thieves, who own most of the illegal oil refining sites in the Niger Delta region, eats away the country’s oil output by about 10% or 150,000 barrels per day . He may have alluded to the watchdog’s head account of actions of persons breaching pipelines to siphon oil to service the illegal refineries.
According to him the country’s crude oil production dropped from 1.7 million barrels per day to 1.5 million barrels per day through December 2021, forcing Nigeria to Concede the top oil producing nation on the African Continent to Late Moumar Gadaffi, home country, Libya.
This may have informed why he had said that ” it is not enough for the government to contemplate of doubling the country’s current production figure this year to enhance the country’s oil revenue generation, stressing that what is needed is a total ‘’crackdown on the oil thieves for its actualisation’’.
Bu with the bold security strategies that had been developed by heads of the various security agencies and the oil producing states governors, including NNPC,Komolafe, the head of Upstream, Regulatory Comission, has assured Nigerians that ‘’pretty soon there will be a reverse in the bunkering activities in the country’’ as the Oil thieves would be nowhere to be found.