Oil theft: In eight months, NSCDC destroys 71 illegal refineries, arrests 501 suspected vandals.

The Nigeria Security and civil defence corps (NSCDC)  said it destroyed 71 illegal refineries and arrested 501 suspected pipeline vandals and oil thieves.

Its Commandant General Ahmed Audi announced this at the inauguration of 93 operational vehicles for the corps by Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola yesterday in Abuja.

Audi said the figure represented some of the achievements of the corps between January and August.

The NSCDC boss said the specialised operational vehicles would be used to combat potential threats to national security arising from felonious acts.

He listed the nefarious acts as crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, smuggling, pipeline vandalism and related crimes within the coastal and offshore areas.

Aregbesola urged the corps to remain intolerant of anything that poses a threat to the safety and peace of Nigerians.

“Utilise and maintain the vehicles to serve their purpose and ensure to train personnel to operate the vehicles,” he said.

Also, members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) protested yesterday in Abuja, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and Warri, Delta State. Their grouse was the massive oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

The angry oil workers threatened a showdown with the Federal Government due to the economic implications the massive oil theft in the oil-producing region was causing its members and fellow Nigerians.

PENGASSAN President Festus Osifo led the oil workers in a rally to the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.

Osifo said the association had repeatedly tried to engage stakeholders in the last year, to proffer solutions to the problem of oil theft and vandalism, but that the engagements hadn’t yielded results.

Also, the NNPC yesterday called for the sensitisation and de-radicalisation of pipeline vandals to enable investors to put their money into the oil business in the country, especially in the Niger Delta region.

NNPC’s Group General Manager for Security, Abba-Gana Muhammed, said this while receiving the protesters at the NNPC Towers in Abuja on behalf of the Group Chief Executive Officer of the company.

He expressed appreciation to members of PENGASSAN, saying the NNPC boss was also doing his best to protect the pipelines and other oil installations.

Osifo urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give security chiefs a month’s deadline to make progress on investigating security outfits sent to the Niger Delta, and send those culpable for non-performance.

Also, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said there was no justification in linking the military with oil theft, operation of illegal refineries and other forms of economic sabotage in the Niger Delta region.

The DHQ was reacting to the allegation that some military personnel were involved in oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

It said troops were taking enormous risks working in the highly hazardous terrain of the region to protect oil installations and deny oil thieves, vandals and other criminals within the maritime domain the freedom to operate.

The Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Jimmy Akpor said the soldiers drafted to the oil-producing region were doing their best and achieving good results.

Akpor said: “When you see the terrain where the oil is produced, you will ask, you are the stakeholders in the production and security of the oil and gas. We need to answer that question so that when you’re writing, you will be writing from the point of knowledge.

“This is because the oil companies are involved, the soldiers are involved and the communities are also involved. But they are only making the military the cannon folder. The military is the weeping child.

“If you’re going to protest that soldiers have not done their job, know that soldiers have done their job. The volume of crude oil that has been recovered shows that they are doing their job. The recent arrest of a supertanker that could have taken out 3 million barrels of crude oil unaccounted for also shows that the military is doing their job.”

The Director of Defence Media Operations (DMO), Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami said troops of Operation Delta Safe had continued the clampdown on oil thieves in the last two weeks.

The military media chief said oil products valued at N1,235,624,462.45 were recovered within the time under review.

Also, PENGASSAN’s Port Harcourt Zone yesterday protested oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region.

Members of the association started their procession from Isaac Boro Park in the Rivers State capital and ended it at the Police Command headquarters.

Their Zonal Chairman Peter Onita said: “We have seen bigger international oil companies (IOCs) that produce more than 30,000 barrels of oil and what will be seen is 3,000 barrels per day…

“As an association, we have been engaging and we will continue to engage the government in the interest to make sure that oil theft and vandalism of oil facilities are put to a stop.

“Today, the OPEC production for Nigeria is put at 1.62 million barrels per day (bpd). As a country, we have the capacity to produce 2 million bpd but because of the oil theft, it is difficult. For close to a year now, we have been struggling to meet our quota.

“Because of this theft, IOCs are leaving the country.”

Rivers State Police Commissioner Eboka Friday said: “The Federal and state governments are not happy with the ugly trend. Since early this year, the governor, in particular, has been very vibrant to ensure that this menace stops.

“Remember early this year, I followed the governor to the bushes to destroy illegal oil refineries. He did not stop there. After that, you realise that the soot reduced drastically.

“On August 19, the governor set up a task force, comprising of the Army, Civil Defence, and the police to fight from all front the war against oil theft.”

Also, hundreds of PENGASSAN members in Warri, Delta State, yesterday protested increasing pipeline vandalism and oil theft in the Niger Delta.

Carrying placards and chanting solidarity songs, the oil workers besieged the Delta State Governor’s Office Annexe in Warri around 8 a.m and tabled their grievances.

Their Chairman Audu Oshiokhamele said: “Some companies producing crude oil told us that any time they mine crude oil before it gets to the reservoir for storage, it’s the only water that’s left. And it’s affecting the output of crude production in Nigeria.

“We are telling the government to prosecute those that have been arrested. This is because we know that without the government’s involvement in this matter, it will be difficult for the thieves to continue their business.”

Also, PENGASSAN Group Chairman at NNPC Limited in Warri, Prince Emea Okorie, regretted that Nigeria could no longer meet its OPEC target of 1.8 million barrels per day.

He said the country is “presently struggling to meet 1 million barrels per day due to theft”.

Addressing the gathering, the Director at Governor’s Office in Annexe Warri, Mrs Violet Onowakpokpo, assured the protesters that their grievances would be conveyed to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

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