The Federal Government has reportedly stepped up its probe into the massive crude oil theft in the Niger Delta because anybody found guilty will face punishment, according to a statement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
It claimed that the oil industry works along with security agencies and private companies contracted to watch over pipes in the oil-rich region. In August, it was said that the Federal Government had awarded an N48 billion yearly pipeline surveillance contract to a business controlled by Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, to halt the massive oil theft in the Niger Delta.
Two months after the contract was approved, Ekpemupolo disclosed the identification of at least 58 illegal sites in the states of Delta and Bayelsa where crude oil was being carried.
The former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta recently informed Delta State’s media that a 4-kilometer illegal oil pipeline had been discovered in the state’s Forcados area.
“I think we have found over 58 points that have been tapped in both Delta and Bayelsa states. We are doing this work together with the security agencies. We are only providing intelligence for the security people to assist to do the work,” he reportedly stated.
When told about the discoveries by Tompolo and asked if the Federal Government would probe the theft and punish those responsibly, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC Limited, Garba-Deen Muhammad, said culprits would be prosecuted.
“Since it is a breach against the law, whether on pipelines or not, the law will certainly take its course. But it is not NNPC that will handle that aspect,” he stated.
Muhammad added, “It is the law itself, the GCEO (Group Chief Executive Officer) said it on site when he visited the areas. He said when these people are found the law will take its course.”
On whether the oil firm had instituted a probe into the menace, the GGM replied, “Since the GCEO has spoken about it, you don’t need anybody to say anything else about it. You can use that as the final statement from the NNPC.”
Muhammed was referring to the statement of the NNPC GCEO, Mele Kyari, at a recent meeting in Abuja, where he (Kyari) said the oil firm had embarked on a series of interventions to tackle the crime.
Kyari had said, “I’m happy to say that the interventions that we have seen in terms of the security measures we have taken, in collaboration with the government security agencies, with the private surveillance and security contractors, and the investments that we have done, we believe that in the next couple of days we will be able to bring back the Trans Niger Pipeline.”
The TNP has been shut down for several months due to crude oil theft on the line.
Kyari added, “And we will also restore production into the Forcados Terminal. That way we are sure that we can see at least 400,000 barrels coming into space. And as we continue to progress with security intervention, we will be able to bring back the other production facilities.
“There are several things we are doing, including alternative evacuation processes. Until we can secure the lines and restore their integrity, there are certain lines that we will not bring back into production.
“So ultimately, we aim to get back the production and it is not out of control. We are getting back and you will see what will happen. Our security agencies are doing a great job on it.”
The ex-militant leader’s receipt of the monitoring contract was justified, according to Kyari, by the fact that other people in the area had previously received similar contracts. Experts, however, offered a range of opinions on the pact. While some protested it, others saw it as a positive development.