Oil industry stakeholders, including pipeline host communities have expressed satisfaction with pipeline surveillance strategy to securing the nation’s crude oil from oil thieves, illegal bunkerers/Kpo fire operators and pipeline vandals.

They said that crude oil theft has reduced by over 90% evident in the reduced availability of illegally refined product and significant improvement in the terminal recovery factor.

At the peak of the dark days of the oil theft, industry sources have it that Nigeria was losing over 96% of its oil in the Eastern corridor to oil thieves and vandals with a large chunk of that volume being stolen from the pipelines, especially the Trans Niger Pipeline TNP which conveys crude to Bonny export terminal from the various oil wells in the Niger Delta.

The economic implications were dire on the nation leading to economic depression and slow growth with its attendant hardship, especially as crude oil revenue being the largest contributor to the nation foreign exchange earner.

Added to this were environmental and health challenges posed by collateral damage to the environment through oil pollution emanating from leakages from pipeline, usually sabotaged in the course of oil tapping and the emission of soot into the environment adjudged to endanger the lives of people living close to places where the stolen crude was crudely and illegally refined by oil thieves popularly known as kpo fire operators.

In August 2022, the Nigeria government through the NNPC commenced an industry wide architecture to end the menace, which has punched numerous holes into the nation’s purse was with significant negative impact on the health and fishing livelihood of the host communities.

Since then improvements have been recorded and this can be seen from recent reports showing significant increase in the in the over all oil production values and receipts over 90%. In addition to the production improvement, the emission of soot into the environment in areas like Port Harcourt, Owaza, Ibaa, Ndele and Bayelsa, which badly impacted on the people’s health has reduced geometrically and host communities around the impacted swamp sections gradually returning to fishing.

Last week our correspondent took a tour to some of the pipeline host communities to ascertain how security surveillance of the pipelines has faired in their areas and to what extent it has helped to address the challenge of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

At Okohia community, on the zone 3, Owaza pipeline route being covered by one of the contractors, Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Ltd, PINL, which covers the 12-inch Trans Niger Pipeline TNP running through the area, we met the technical team fixing a point at the 12-inch pipeline sabotaged by vandals in an early morning attack that very Wednesday.

Sunny Otuke, Chairman, Community Development Committee CDC, of the community told our correspondent that the attack was carried out about 5:30 am after the surveillance guards had closed from the night shift.

He praised the technical team for the quick response to the attack saying it saved the community from the spill that would have occurred from the sabotage.

The CDC Chairman stated; “The response was swift. Even the workers at the camp didn’t have breakfast, they just rushed down to effect the repairs”.

He explained that the oil thieves resorted to breaking pipes out of frustration because the surveillance guards now prevent them from stealing oil from the pipe.

“The boys closed work past 4 am but they normally close 4 but since we noticed this their style I told them not to be closing earlier than 5 am.

“Now because we are prevent them to connect valves to steal from the pipe, what they are doing now is to go about, using saw, to cut the pipe in order to cause spills.That’s what we have been battling but since over a month now, this is the first one we have noticed. So we are trying to control it.

Otuke applauded the policy of pipeline surveillance and the contactors handling the security surveillance stressing that they have helped to extensively reduce oil theft and illegal refining that were threatening the peace and well being of the entire community.

On his part, Simeon Nwagbara from Owaza Community also applauded the federal government and the NNPCL for adopting the security surveillance strategy in the fight against oil theft, illegal refining/kpo fire and pipeline vandalism.

He said with the new strategy more youths have been employed from the community as surveillance guards adding that since they took over the contract they had employed about 30 youths from his community.

He said; “Before their arrival, Shell was not even having any drop of oil. As they took over from Shell at least we can boast that we are giving them, if not 100% then 80% from along this pipeline route. So they are trying in terms of security”, Nwagbara stated.

At Norkpo community, Tai local government area in Ogoniland, hosting the 24-inch Trans National Pipeline TNP and 28-inch Bonny loop line, our Correspondent learnt that the pipeline surveillance has not only helped to end illegal bunkering but also fostered peace among the communities.

Speaking to journalists on the performance of the surveillance contractor handling the Ogoni axis, Augustine Aminikpo, JP, His Royal Highness, Paramount Ruler, of the community, said that since Pipeline Infrastructure came into the community two years ago they have made peace to reign in Ogoni axis.

The Royal Father stated; “In fact, before they came in, you cannot wash and keep outside because of bunkering activities that were going on in this our Ogoni axis. The reason we cannot wash and keep outside was because of soot generated from the activities of kpo fire operators. But now, the bunkering activities have reduced and the soot that was staining our clothes when we spread them outside has ceased, now you can wash and keep outside, 24-hours.

“In fact SPDC could not pump crude before but due to efforts of PINL they are pumping 24 hours now. They can pump one week, they can pump two weeks, they can pump one month.

“They have made peace to reign in Ogoni axis, they engage the youths, they empower the youths, they empower the chiefs and His Royal Majesty. They even engage the people that the pipeline did not pass through there lands, like people of Okrika, Ogu, Wakama”.

The Paramount Ruler, who said the two pipelines had divided the community into two added; “As I talk to you there’s no bunkering activities going on. They are no longer doing any bunkering activities in Ogoni axis anymore. No more bunkering, no more Kpo fire anywhere. It is because of the performance of the contractors. So because there is peace now in Ogoni axis. They have tried and we want them to try more”.
He explained that part of the strategy adopted by the company was massive employment of community youths to be part of the pipeline surveillance guards.
He added; “In some communities they engage 20, some 30, some 40. There are three local government areas in Ogoni that the contractor covers. In each of these local governments they employ more than 200.

“For now, those boys that were involved in bunkering activities have forgotten about bunkering and joined in securing the pipelines to make sure that there is peace and to stop bunkering activities”.

The Youth Leader of the community, Osaro Barisua corroborated the Paramount Ruler that the coming of the Pipeline Infrastructure had improved the quality of life in the community with employment to many youths and ending the emission soot that threatened the health of the people.

According to the youth leader; “Before now, there have been series of sabotage on this pipeline and we discovered that those responsible for it were the youths, just like my Chief have said.”And before now there were other workers that were working on this pipeline but they were not able to comprehend the solution to vandalism. But when this new contractor came in and engaged the youths, I’m telling you, as a youth leader, I’m part of the business.

“Morning afternoon and night, we go out on this line with the army and DSS, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that this line is safe. All is attributed to the encouragement given to us by Pipeline Infrastructure. I want to say that since their arrival there has been drastic change that took place in this work.

“So we are very happy because before now there were Kpo fire everywhere but as it stands now, there is no community in Ogoni that is doing this bunkering business, nowhere.

“Outside employing some of our youths, like last December, all the Paramount Rulers on this Ogoni axis smiled. They ( the Paramount Rulers ) did not make any demands but as a way of appreciating them to boost their morale. What the company did to them was visible. No contractor that had worked on this line ever did that and because of that all the Paramount Rulers sat up to ensure that this line is secure. So day in, day out all the workers that are working under them, they ensure that this line is safe. They are trying very well.

As for Chief Superintendent (CP) Audu Boniface, Head of the Civil Defense Special Forces from National Headquarters, Abuja attached to the Zone 3 Owaza Camp, they are on 24/7 surveillance of pipelines and well heads across Owaza in Abia state and Rivers State as part of their statutory functions.

He explained the scope of their job; “We have precisely 130 well heads in Owaza and Odogwa. They are up to 80 functioning actively both in Owaza and Odogwa all feeding the Trans Niger pipeline. We have spent about 4 months here and so far, so good. We have made so many arrests and so many prosecutions of the illegal bunkerers/Oil thieves”.

“The threats that we have on regular basis is that the locals here, 24 hours try to attack the facilities. Some of them, you arrest them and almost immediately another group will spring up. So we don’t sleep on our jobs here, we don’t close our eyes on pipelines and well heads across board here.

“Everyday, every minute you will see them trying to tamper with the line and we have been preventing them from doing so.

“I’m very happy that we have made serious achievements here because our presence here scares them away. Immediately they sight us, they run, immediately you go they return, so we keep on chasing them in order not to continue tampering with the well heads and pipelines.

“Right from Ibaa at Ndele camp, Kpo and Owaza, in Odogwa, the arrests have been more than 50 that we have made. Some have been proseecuted and some released on bail for lack of adequate evidence to prosecute them’.

Another stakeholder inside Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Limited, PINL, said that the main strategy adopted by the company is effective community engagement.

He said that right from the on set of the project, the company engaged about 125 communities, employed thousands of youths as surveillance guards to provide local intelligence for the technical team of the company.

“We have a technical team in all locations with government security agents. These security guards work in conjunction with our technical teams and government security agents to effectively police the line.

“So we have been able to get the buy-in of the community populace. Not just the guards but the chiefs also and all stakeholders in the 125 communities, we have been able to get their buy-in. So that’s really the reason behind our success”, he stated.

He added; “The TNP was completely down before we took over. Right now it’s flowing and functional. The Bonny terminal now receives crude. Nationally, before the advent of this contract we are talking about, less than a million barrels per day was been accounted for, today we are talking about 1.66 mbp/d and still moving up. There’s room for improvement and they are working fervently to see that that figure goes up on daily basis”.


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