How troops destroyed 49 illegal refineries in Delta | Dailytrust

How troops destroyed 49 illegal refineries in Delta

Minister of State, Petroleum, Timipre Sylva (middle) and other dignitaries inspecting a crude oil theft site in Rivers State on Wednesday
Minister of State, Petroleum, Timipre Sylva (middle) and other dignitaries inspecting a crude oil theft site in Rivers State on Wednesday

Military operatives attached to Operation Delta Safe in the South South region have raided some communities in Delta State where they destroyed 49 illegal refineries.

This is coming barely a day after the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lucky Irabor, among other officials in the petroleum sector visited crude oil theft sites in Rivers State acting on a presidential directive to contain oil theft.

Daily Trust reports that the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission recently said the country loses more than 115,000 barrels per day to oil theft and vandalism.

It said Nigeria lost 42.25 million barrels of crude in 2019 and 53.28 million barrels in the previous year to theft.

This has denied the country huge income amid competing demands required for infrastructure and economic diversification.

Government officials and energy experts have decried the ugly development in the Niger Delta region saying the level at which crude oil was being stolen was beyond sundry criminals and noted that there was a high level of conspiracy.

How N648bn crude was stolen in 5 years – NEITI

The Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, had on March 7 released the 2020 Petroleum Industry Report, which revealed a significant case of oil theft.

Within a space of five years (2016 to 2020), the country lost over 270m barrels of crude to theft and sabotage and at a global cure price of $40 per barrel in 2020, Nigeria might have lost about $1.560 billion or N648.5bn to the incidents. That amount is enough to fund the budget of the ministry of power and the minister of works and housing that year, being the largest ministries.

Based on data from 22 of the 69 participating companies, 39.16 million barrels (mmbls) of crude valued at $44,73 million (or N15.71 billion) were stolen in 2020. An average of 107,293 barrels per day crude loss occurred through 349 cases of pipeline vandalism during the year. However, the figure was a drop in the cases from 1,387 cases recorded in 2019.

The military onslaught

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Bernard Onyeuko, who disclosed the renewed onslaught in Niger Delta while briefing Defence Correspondents in Abuja, stated that no fewer than 49 illegal refineries were destroyed.

He said the onslaught was to tame oil thieves who were sabotaging the economy of the country.

Some of the communities raided by the security operatives include; Ajomo Creeks, Koko town in Warri North Local Government Area; Obodo, Okpoko River in Warri South Local Government Area; Obiayaga and Eruwaram in Ugheli South Local Government Area, among others, all in Delta State.

He said, “During the operations, troops also discovered and destroyed 49 illegal refineries, 275 polythene bags containing illegally refined AGO, 146 ovens, 145 receivers, four boilers, 125 metal storage tanks, eight GP tanks, 19 drums, 69 50-litre jerry cans, 81 galvanised pipes, 85 dugout pits, five warehouses and pots containing illegally refined AGO.

“Cumulatively, troops within the period under review (two weeks) neutralised one militant, recovered 6,679,000 litres of illegally refined AGO; 4,436,000 litres of stolen crude oil, one gunboat, one BMG gun, one AK 47 rifle, five MCs, several rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition, 12 motorcycles, 20 wooden boats, 15 pumping machines, two trucks, one ford, three speedboats, five engines, one Keke, five vehicles.

“Furthermore, 70 economic saboteurs associated with pipeline vandalisation and other criminal elements were apprehended. All recovered items and apprehended criminals have been handed over to the appropriate authorities for further action,” the spokesman said.

Criminality must stop – Sylva, CDS, others

On Wednesday, the federal government warned that it would no longer condone any form of criminality on the nation’s oil and gas facilities and installations.

It said crude oil thieves, pipeline vandals and illegal refiners have their days numbered, according to a statement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd (NNPCL) on Thursday.

The warning came from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Sylva; the Chief of Defence Staff, General Irabor and the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, during an on-the-spot- assessment of some pipelines damaged by pipeline vandals and other criminals in some areas and communities of Rivers State.

To solve the problem, Sylva said, “The community must be involved, the security arm must be involved and the third arm, which is the operating public must also be involved. I want to let everybody know that these criminals have their days numbered because the country has lost so much from their activities.”

Also speaking, General Irabor said in carrying out Mr President’s directives to contain losses from these criminalities, the military will deploy a different strategy and a new drive by pursuing not only the criminals but also their sponsors.

“We are not only zeroing in on the criminals, but also on those who are supporting them.”

Engr. Komolafe on his part described the acts of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalisation as “A national disaster and the perpetrators as criminals.”

The GMD/CEO NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari explained that the scale of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalisation seen was beyond explanation.

In a statement issued by the NNPCL spokesman, Garba Deen Muhammad, Kyari appreciated the current leadership of the military saying he was hopeful that through a collaborative effort of government security agencies, host communities, oil companies and with the right technology, the menace would be contained.

Also adding his voice, energy expert and retired Deputy Director of the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources, Engr Sunday Adebayo Babalola, said illegal petroleum refining especially in the Niger Delta region remains an act of sabotage.

“People who are involved in illegal refining should stop it. They are even endangering their lives and those of other residents. They are also sabotaging the economy of Nigeria and their states,” he said.

Communities, oil workers, others trade tackles over oil theft

Before the military launched the recent operation, there have been disputes on the crude oil theft perpetrated by communities, oil workers and ex-militants.

According to reports, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Host Communities Organisation (HOSTCOM) on Wednesday traded blames on their involvement in the menace.

President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, who addressed newsmen in Lagos, said the country was losing 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day to theft and pipeline vandalisation, alleging high-level collusion by stakeholders in Niger Delta.

But the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said: “It is an outrageous statement. Perhaps PENGASSAN knows those that are doing it, then they should mention them.”

HOSTCOM denied the allegation, saying: “The military task force, many of whom are not from the region, should be blamed.”

The National President of HOSTCOM, Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, blamed the military task force saying many of them were not from the region.

He said, “Most of our people are being informed about the danger but when it is being aided by the military, our hands are tied.”


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