Combating pipeline vandalism

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No one would deny that pipeline vandalism is assuming an embarrassing phenomenon in the country. Everyday brings the sordid news of oil pipelines being vandalised in one part of the country or the other and with it, direct and collateral damages running into millions of naira. Speaking recently on the menace, the Managing Director of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue revealed that from January to September 2015, more than 2,055 vandal points were recorded on different sections of the company’s network.
As result, the agency recorded a total loss of 531 million litres of PMS, which amounted to N50 billion. We are indeed piqued at such derring-do by oil pipeline vandals. Obviously buoyed by successes in destroying and siphoning oil from damaged pipelines, these vandals have become more daring in their criminal activities, thereby inflicting untold damage on the nation’s economy. We therefore demand that the government take severe and drastic measures to check the menace.
Not only does the Federal Government lose billions of naira to vandals yearly, some oil companies are being forced to shut down their operations, following losses due to the vandalism of their pipelines. Even at that, it is not only the government and the oil companies that lose. The activities of vandals also pose a danger to themselves and communities near their areas of operation as many have lost their lives to the explosions and subsequent infernos while stealing oil from the pipes.
The damage to the economy is even more deleterious not only in the capacity of the vandals to cripple effective distribution of petroleum products across the country but also in foisting on the nation increased trucking option which comes with enormous risks and cost. The continuing incidence of pipeline vandalism is a reflection of the general collapse of sound values in Nigeria, a society caught in the shameful throes of unbridled material acquisition.
It is worrisome that over the years, vandals have notched up their criminality, moving from destroying pipelines of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stealing oil, to killing security agents.
Incidentally, some security personnel also collaborate with aid oil thieves in their nefarious acts of vandalism. While welcoming the decision of the Buhari administration to terminate the pipeline protection contracts awarded to some militia groups, we believe that many of them are still strong and active along the oil pipeline routes. There is no gainsaying the fact that enormous sums of money is earned from illicit trade of stolen oil, often settled through cash and arm deals, fuelling a cold war between entrenched actors and the state.

The government must therefore strive to block the security loopholes that armed groups appear to be exploiting in the pipeline routes. That is why we welcome the news that the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), is testing drones designed to document evidence of vandalism. Our endorsement of the measure is informed by the fact that in 2014 alone, Nigeria lost over N1.2 trn to oil theft. Given that Nigeria depends on oil as her major source of revenue, the country has everything to lose with a poor protection of the oil pipelines. Therefore, the campaign against pipeline vandalism should, be a collective effort by governments at all levels, including oil companies and the local communities.

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