The recent disclosure by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to the effect that the federal government spends not less than N60 billion every year on repairing vandalised oil pipelines in the Niger Delta sub-region is not only worrisome but also quite deplorable and reprehensive.
The minister made the revelation in Abuja at a recent town hall meeting on the protection of oil and gas infrastructure in the country. He said with oil and gas providing 80 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, the impact of pipeline vandalism on the economy could only be imagined.
“Today’s town hall meeting on protecting oil and gas infrastructure is very important, considering that the destruction of this infrastructure has socioeconomic and environmental implications. With oil providing 80 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, one can only imagine the impact of the incessant destruction of oil pipelines on the economy.
“I do not intend to take the wind out of the sail of the experts who will speak on this issue, but with an average of 200,000 barrels per day lost to the wanton damage to pipelines and a huge amount of 60 billion naira yearly to repair and maintain the vandalised points, one can only imagine the impact on the economy.”
According to him, between January 2019 and September 2020, 1,161 pipeline points across the country were attacked by vandals.“Apart from the impact on the nation’s earnings, consider also the environmental problems caused by the incessant vandalism, in terms of freshwater pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, etc., and you will appreciate the enormity of the problem. With far less resources, the administration has recorded more infrastructural development than was achieved in all the 16 years of the previous administration. As this government strives to bridge our nation’s infrastructural deficit, we must do everything in our power to stop the wanton destruction of public infrastructure.”
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, disclosed that Nigeria recorded 4,919 oil spills between 2015 and March 2021 and lost 4.5 trillion barrels of oil to theft in four years. “According to the National Oil Spill Detection Agency (NOSDRA) data, the total number of oil spills recorded from 2015 to March 2021 is 4,919, the number of oil spills cost by collation is 308. The operational maintenance is 106, while sabotage is 3,628 and yet to be determined 70, giving the total number of oil spills on the environment to 235,206 barrels of oil. This is very colossal to the environment.
“Nigeria also lost approximately 4.75 trillion on oil activities in the four years between 2015 and 2018, as estimated by the Nigeria Natural Resources Charter. Several statistics have emphasised Nigeria as the most notorious country in the world for oil spills, loosing roughly 400,000 barrels per day. The second country is followed by Mexico that has reported only 5,000 to 10,000 barrel only per day, thus a difference of about 3, 900 per cent.Now the environmental effect, which is the major concern of the ministry of environment, is in the loss of revenue.
“Attack on oil facilities has become the innovation that replaced agitations in the Niger Delta region against perceived poor governance and neglect of the area.The impacts of vandalism of oil facilities have not only caused pollution of the environment, but had consequences on the local people, the national economy and security,’’ he said.
Abubakar said that the activities that come with oil exploration and exploitation had similarly caused alterations to the environment and some of its effects had either been reduced or prevented. The minister added that adequate mitigation measures had been taken, including enforcement of relevant laws, regulations and guidelines, such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act.
He said the EIA process ensured that measures were put in place to assist in the reduction of the negative effects and enhancement of the positive effects on the ecology, health and social wellbeing of communities in project areas. “It is in the light of this fact that over 1,300 oil and gas projects in Nigeria have been subjected to EIA process under the supervision of the ministry’’.
Abubakar disclosed that the ministry held periodic interactive sessions with oil and gas operators, focused on the continued degradation of the environment, fatalities and loss of revenue, attributable to the regular and incessant vandalism of oil facilities, particularly pipelines.
It is, indeed, sad that Nigeria’s oil sector, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the nation’s total foreign exchange earnings with the bulk of it coming from the numerous producing fields, located on the land, swamp and offshore environment of the Niger Delta region, could be so brazenly attacked by selfish and unpatriotic elements.
Consequently, we call on the federal government to beef up its security surveillance on the oil facilities in order to nip the ugly incidents of pipeline vandalism and theft in the bud. Nigeria, with a huge infrastructure deficit, cannot afford to continue to waste its scarce revenue on spurious and criminal acts.