By Comrade Ovasa Ogaga
The fact that Nigeria is the 7th largest crude oil producing Nation is not news, but what is news is that this high value of crude oil production has not translated to huge wealth for the Nation, no thanks to organized syndicates of local and international oil thieves, who for many years have swarmed the “swamp filled with Dollars” to make themselves rich with our collective national patrimony.
Recall that between 2005-2009 the Niger Delta Region was reduced into a theatre of the absurd, owing to spate of piracy networks, youth and host community restiveness, kidnappings and pipelines vandalism and bunkering as well as the development of illegal artisanal activities, making it extremely difficult for any business activities including oil mining and processing activities to take place. This unedifying situation brought about the dislocation of social and economic capital and the eventual relocation of many oil companies and their allied services agencies from the region.
Soon enough and in order to addresss this crisis the administration of President Musa Y’Adua, created a program plank which saw to the demilitarisation of the region and through a Presidential fiat granted amnesty to all Niger Delta agitators on 4th October 2009, following the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee (NDTC) which includes a three action program reforms to tackle issues of governance and the rule of law; socio-economic development and human capital development aimed at deepening sustainable peace and progress in the region.
The period following the cessation of hostilities brought an era of peaceful co existence among the different ethnic groups of the Niger Delta. It was even reported them that communities began exercising security vigilance over government assets in their domains. As a consequence, Nigeria’s daily Crude Oil Production rose to 2.545m barrels/day in 2010.
This leap period continued to the first quarter of 2016, which saw Nigeria’s daily Crude exploitation number averaged between 2.199m Barrel/Day to 1.898m Barrel/Day and for a very long time remained so. But no sooner the Amnesty office began to cut corners on its statutory obligations the region soon alternated its priorities which saw to the development of bunkering and illegal artesanal platforms.
Further to this, subsisting pipeline surveillance contract previously awarded to indigenous Niger Delta security companies were revoked and new contract obligations were issued to cronies of the government who turned out to be apathetic to their assigned tasks and left the entire oil platforms open to criminal prospectors. No sooner, the regions oil producing capacity plummeted to an all-time low output base of about 998,000bpd in 2021 which saw the country unable to meet its OPEC quota and at some point lost its position as the highest crude oil producer nation in Africa.
These sordid realities led to production outages, and disruptions resulting in Nigeria’s crude oil production falling behind Angola in crude oil production and from then on disruptions of crude oil production activities assumed monstrous proportion occasioned by a surge in pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft incidents, a development that worsened the nation’s fiscal and monetary base, leading to the government sourcing for high paying interest loans, to undertake governmental business thereby increasing the nation’s debt burden.
To be sure, Oil Thieves within this period became more daring. They were said to produce more oil than the Nigerian state until the NNPCL launched a recovery plan by indicating it wants to deal with better organised private security architecture to monitor its pipelines, stem all incidences of oil theft and pipeline vandalism as well as to save Nigeria from bankruptcy. It awarded a multibillion naira pipeline surveillance procurement contract to Tantita Security Service Nigeria Limited,
on August 13th 2022.
This was coming after more than than five years after the termination by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), of maritime security contract it entered with Global West Specialist Vessels Limited, a company said to be sponsored by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, ( aka Tompolo), the agency’s new Director General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has testified that the contract actually boosted NIMASA’s revenue.
The contract was precipitously canceled by the previous government regardless of the fact its activity boosted NIMASA’s operations and revenue.
Dr Jamoh also said that there was a Public Private Partnership arrangement with Global West adding that the engagement of the firm was not limited to maritime security adding that their involvement with NIMASA included enforcement of certain aspects of the agency’s mandate, Flag and Port State control.
Before this latest contract was awarded, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, Mele kolo Kyari, and the then Minister of State Petroleum, Timipre Sylva had expressed the fears that over 700,000 barrels of Nigerian oil were stolen on a daily basis leading to deficit ratios in the nations foreign exchange reserves and declining rates of the naira
Malam Mele Kolo Kyari, was quoted to have also said that, “illegal activities around oil assets including illegal refineries, and insertion on oil pipelines, among others have caused a huge shortfall in oil production with the situation getting worse in 2022. Before the onslaught against the oil thieves by Tantita Security Service Nigeria Limited, Nigeria was estimated to be losing over 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil; cutting production capacity to just 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) from 1.8m bpd quota assigned to Nigeria by OPEC.”
Kyari said: “The scale of oil theft that we have seen was not anticipated, not expected, not thought of. The scale is enormous. We have seen pipelines taken from our main trunk lines into abandoned platforms in which people come to steal oil.
It is important to note that 90 percent of the nations net earnings is based on crude oil export. In which case, any fluctuating fortune in that sector would correspondingly affect the nations macro economic environment not the least is the FAAC allocations to federating states. It was said that before NNPCLs engagement with Tantita Security Services limited
Nigeria’s crude oil production when put side by side with its projected output of 1.88 million barrels per day in 2022 fell short by a whopping 283 million barrels, amounting to roughly $24.55 billion, revenue loss to the Nigerian State. This figure was arrived at by the conservative price of $85 per barrel, which the commodity sold in the year under review, which pricing is multiplied by the 283 million barrels deficit recorded during the period.
However, this ugly trend was immediately reversed so soon as Messrs Tantita Security services limited held the reins of pipelines surveillance for NNPCL, yielding positive results in the last quarter of 2022 and the trend subsisted peaking at 1,295.000 Barrels per day in June 2023.
It’s on record that for a very long time, Nigeria has failed to meet its OPEC production quota and subsequently failed to maximize the current high price of crude oil in the international oil market. Nevertheless, efforts by Tantita Security Service Nigeria Limited and its affiliate agencies have ensured that crude oil thieves who before now had unfettered access to the nation’s crude oil reserve base through illegal bunkering with large ocean-going vessels and illegal artesanal refineries have been rendered redundant.
Recently, Nigerians were jolted to the news by Tantita Security Service Nigeria Limited and its affiliate agencies working with other critical stakeholders to expose a trunk pipeline that is connected to the country’s Forcados export crude oil terminal and according to the report; the pipeline has existed for well over 10 years undetected by the Navy and the joint task force. How could this be.
Again, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has said that its security partner, Tantita Security Services Limited, intercepted an 800,000-litre capacity vessel with Cargo loaded with stolen crude oil on July 7, 2023. The Vessel, MT TURA II (IMO number: 6620462), owned by a Nigerian Registered Company, HOLAB MARITIME SERVICES LIMITED with Registration Number RC813311, was heading to Cameroun with the Cargo on board when it was apprehended at an offshore location with the Captain and Crew members on board.
It is the first time in the surveillance regime we hear such unearthing of crude oil heist.
It is obvious Tantita Security Services Nigeria Ltd which has its base in the Niger Delta, since its engagement has worked with security operatives to comb the areas, and to the surprise of Nigerians, massive discoveries of illegal activities were made. It was revealed that over 68 vessels involved in crude oil theft have been arrested, while 638 illegal refineries out of 763 have been destroyed, as well as several arrests made.
Different reports have shown that Nigeria’s national oil production has recovered from an all-time low of 1.1 million barrels per day in August 2022 prior to signing the contracts to an average of over 1.47 million BPD in August 2023. This translates into an increase of over 300,000 BPD. Similarly, findings further revealed that oil production volume has continued to record significant improvement as more Wells and associated surface facilities that were hitherto shut down because of incessant theft and vandalism are being reopened.
President Tinubu at this time must tread the path of progress by ensuring that the relative progress made in the country’s oil production quota is sustained and improved upon by renewing the contract of Tantita Security Service Nigeria Limited and its affiliate agencies, even as the nation surfs on the path of economic risorgimento.
Comrade Ovasa Ogaga, A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Asaba, Delta State.