The greed of a few unpatriotic citizens and economic saboteurs is pushing Nigeria to the financial brink.
Oil theft in Nigeria is the most important story of our now. It is not the diversionary National Conference; a hungry man is an angry man.
So much oil is being stolen by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under the guise of feeding local refineries in addition to several thousands of barrels stolen by the rich and powerful under the protection of Nigeria’s military.
Nigeria represents the face of brazen oil theft; an organized crime with international reach. Other than drug trafficking, no other illegal trade is more lucrative.
Oil theft has been going on for long in the creeks of Ogoni communities and in the mangrove swamps of the delta.
What is new is that oil theft has assumed stratospheric dimensions since Goodluck Jonathan became president. Nigeria can no longer export above two million barrels of crude per day as opposed to the budgetary provision of 2.5 million barrels per day.
Nigeria is broke. We are not selling enough crude to meet budgetary provisions. Salaries are getting paid late, the government is failing to meet some of its obligations and domestic debt is rising rapidly. Nigeria is held hostage on multiple fronts; Boko Haram up North, oil theft, renewed militancy and kidnapping down South and political malfeasance across the land.
The greed of a few unpatriotic citizens and economic saboteurs is pushing the country to the financial brink.
Let no one be deceived. The rich, powerful and connected are Nigeria’s oil Mafiosi. It is the reason why theft escalated immediately after subsidy became an issue. It is the reason why a weak and weakened President can do nothing about it.
It is not only dishonest for the government and the oil companies to blame the poor for stealing the oil, it is criminal.
The face of jerrycan wielding rural poor are not the face of oil theft. They are the foot soldiers, paraded to us as decoy and mere distractions. Oil theft is a big criminal ring with sophisticated organization and international network.
Where will poor people get the millions to buy or rent vessels, bribe customs and get military cover for their operations? Oil theft is not for the poor, it is an extensive racket involving the military, security apparatchiks, politicians, dubious industrial moguls and the oil companies.
Whosoever wants to deal with oil theft should better be ready to die because the racketeering is on industrial scale.
Many people fed fat for too long on the country and they will not give up without a fight. Their gravy network involves commodity traders, oil company workers and international criminals. Actually, there are allegations that the oil companies themselves might be complicit in the stealing because the country does not know how much oil it produces.
The figures involved are ginormous. President Goodluck Jonathan, said between 300,000-400,000 barrels of oil per day, or more than 10% of all Nigeria’s production, is being lost to oil theft. Sadly, he is powerless to stop it. The math adds up to a staggering $1.6billion a month; an amount that will meet ASUU demands twice! This horrendous monthly loss now threatens to destabilize Nigeria.
The scale of stolen crude and bunkering under Goodluck Jonathan is unprecedented and has continued to shock analysts and political observers within and outside Nigeria.
It has become more daring since amnesty was granted militants two years ago. Amnesty with all the hoopla has now supplanted “petty” theft with grand theft because the military now control oil platforms and only the military can tell the country what is going on.
In the past, people tap crude by vandalizing pipelines; not anymore. These days, it is big business. Oil is being siphoned under security cordon from pipelines, tank farms, export terminals, refinery storage tanks, jetties, ports, pipelines, and drilling wellheads.
You don’t have to snoop around the communities to find tell tale signs of oil theft. They are all too impossible to miss, everything is flung out in the open. The communities themselves are complicit in the trade as it provided employment for them.
To steal crude, you need support from the military chain of command because you need an awful lot of security for safe passage. Who guarantees that? The military – Nigeria Armed Forces.
It is safe then to assume that the top hierarchy of the military is involved in criminal fleecing of the Nigerian people. Stolen oil finds easy buyers mostly in China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Balkans.
On alibaba.com, wheelers and dealers openly solicit for crude and they get supplied from illegal sources. Locally, several hundred artisanal refineries have sprung up in the creeks in the last few years producing cheap Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) and rough Automotive Gas Oil (Diesel) a.k.a black diesel for local sale.
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on its website, admits “Criminal activities including sabotage, oil theft and illegal refining are causing huge environmental damage in the Niger Delta. From 2008 to 2012, these activities accounted for around 76% of the oil that escaped from SPDC facilities.”
It is noteworthy that Shell controls the Trans Niger pipeline which transports around 150,000 barrels a day of crude.
This pipeline is probably the most sabotaged of pipelines in the world. Thousands of barrels of crude oil are tapped from this 50 year old rusty pipeline daily.
As one set of Shell engineers removes illegal taps, another group help saboteurs install large connectors to siphon crude into large barges whose content are loaded on tankers meant for distribution to customers around the world.
Chatham House in a recent report stated “Officials and private actors disguise theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centers and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards.”
The laundered proceeds of stolen oil feeds the ostentatious consumption of the thieving elite to the country’s detriment.
The Nigerian conundrum is exasperating. Is it the theft itself and its effect of economic sabotage or our onslaught on nature?
Carbon is reaching the highest levels yet in the atmosphere due to pollution from the illegal refineries who has no expertise nor the willingness to safely dispose waste residues from illegal distillation and by-products from the diesel-making process.
The land reeks of spills saturated with waste oil. No fish in the waterways, rusty pipes and decrepit metal tanks litter once lush farmland. What is our national heritage? Where is our conscience? We are a warring people with almost every ethnic group loathing the other.
We kill ourselves in the name of religion or ethnicity. Add to that; we stink up the planet and are tanking the environment.
We have become nature’s most short-sighted and dumb people obsessed with destroying each other and the environment we did not create. Bad enough, our government are invested in extra short-term thinking or even worse!
Join Nigeria’s Soul Index on Facebook and invite your friends. Our group is nonviolent and nonpartisan. The group is open to Nigerians home an abroad without bias to gender, ethnicity, religion or any of those things that seeks to divide us. Remember, – “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Let us take Nigeria back an inch at a time. Change!
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