Following the incessant illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria’s oil sector, which has witnessed an upsurge in recent times, the Royal Dutch Shell has accused the Nigerian security forces of aiding oil thieves and profiting from such a deal.
The company, which alleged further that the country lost $1bn monthly to the illegal operations, also disclosed that it wasplanning to sell four of its onshore oil blocks in the country.
The company said that its decision to sell off the blocks was informed by governmental failure to checkmate bunkering in the Niger Delta as well as the relentlessness of the bunkerers who steal an average of 100,000 barrels of crude per day.
Due to bunkering, oil production in the country has dropped to 400,000 barrels per day instead of 2.5 million bpd capacity level.
According to a report obtained by Sunday Tribune, the constant theft of large volumes of oil from the company’s numerous pipelines is allegedly aided by politicians, security forces, oil industry personnel and traders as well as other miscreants who hibernate at creeks and swamps in the Niger Delta to bilk the nation to the tune of about $1 billion each month.
The company, which pioneered Nigeria’s oil business from Oloibiri oil field in 1958, has also closed down its Trans-Niger pipeline that used to pump about 150,000 bpd oil to the giant refinery at Bonney, because the pipeline was holed at different points by oil thieves.
The report posted by John Domovan blamed the act on lack of political will from the Federal Government and various state governments, where oil was being explored, and government’s failure to checkmate activities of oil thieves, saying it has further emboldened the bunkerers who use their local and international connections to steal crude from pipelines.
According to Shell’s head of communication, Philip Mshelbila, “there is a sophisticated organisation…” that specialises in oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, saying their operation is “clearly not just local,” but “a wide network” of criminals who make money from the illegal activity.
A statement credited to the company also confirmed that there was little or no measure put in place by government to end the illegal activity, as those who were supposed to protect pipelines in the country aided bunkering.
It will be recalled that a recent report by the Royal Institute for International Affairs similarly revealed that Nigeria’s oil was being stolen not just from pipelines, but also from tank farms, export terminals, refinery storage, ports and even wellheads.
“Officials and private actors disguise theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards,” the report added.
Reacting to the story, the Director, Defence Information, Brig. General Chris Olukolade, said that it was a subtle blackmail and that anyone with real evidence against the JTF should forward such to the appropriate authority for investigation and action.
According to him, the JTF is carrying out its mandate successfully by checking and curtailing illegalities in the creeks and cannot turn around and be doing other things.
He said the military welcomed proof of such allegations, stressing that if such complaints were received, Nigerians would see what happened next.