In a disconcerting revelation, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) has reported a staggering 148 cases of crude oil theft during the week of September 2 to 8, 2023. This alarming data, communicated through the NNPCL’s official Twitter account on September 12, 2023, paints a grim picture of the nation’s ongoing struggle against this illicit activity.
Within this tumultuous period, the NNPCL unearthed a multitude of infractions, comprising the discovery of 78 illegal refineries, 14 violations involving vessels, 8 instances of unauthorized connections, 34 arrests related to wooden boats, 8 vehicle-related arrests, 4 oil spills, 1 vessel apprehension, and 1 pipeline vandalism incident.
One standout incident was the detention of the MV Ofuoma, a Utility Vessel sailing under an unknown flag, at the Abuloma jetty in the southeastern region of Nigeria. Shockingly, this aged vessel, constructed in 1981, was found carrying 57,000 liters of illicitly refined fuel.
Highlighting the geographic spread of this crisis, a report by the Nigerian news agency, Nairametrics, indicates that 14 incidents occurred in the Deep Blue Sea, 48 in the Western region, 31 in the Central region, and a staggering 55 in the Eastern region, all within the oil-producing territories of the Niger Delta.
This plague of crude oil theft, driven by institutional corruption, has persisted in Nigeria for many years. However, it has gained increased prominence among the general public as the government and organizations like the Nigerian Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) strive to quantify the staggering financial losses impeding the growth of the oil and gas sector.
In response to this dire situation, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has unveiled a plan to acquire two specialized aircraft for combating crude oil theft within the nation’s borders. AVM Abdul Ganiyu, the Director of Operations for the NAF, disclosed this initiative during a briefing to the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee, tasked with investigating oil theft and revenue loss on behalf of the federal government. Notably, pilot training for operating these aircraft is already in progress and expected to be operational by the end of September 2023.
The stark reality of this crisis was emphasized by Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbass, who recently lamented that the nation had suffered a colossal loss of $46 billion (or N16.25 trillion) over the past 11 years due to crude oil theft. This staggering figure underscores the urgent need for decisive action against this deeply entrenched problem that continues to cripple Nigeria’s economy, particularly following the removal of the fuel subsidy.