Rallies Against Massive Oil Theft Start Today Across the Country, say Oil Workers

• Mention how security personnel are now paid to serve in the Niger Delta.

•Disclose that 300,000 barrels and $1 billion per day are wasted due to shut-ins

From Abuja, Emmanuel Addeh

In an effort to persuade the government to take action and put an end to the threat, Nigerian oil workers announced yesterday that they will hold statewide protests today against the widespread theft of the nation’s crude oil and the destruction of oil assets.

The oil workers, who are members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), noted that it was necessary to declare an emergency after contacting the heads of the security services, regulatory organizations, and business leaders to find ways to stop the problem but receiving little to no response.

In an interview with media in Abuja, Mr. Festus Osifo, national president of PENGASSAN, said that the union will change its approach since working inside the confines of offices was not producing the intended results.

Nigeria barely managed to produce little more over one million barrels per day in July despite the 1.8 million barrels per day Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) limit.

Even though a flurry of actions, such as the resumption of security personnel deployment, real-time monitoring of activities near the pipelines, the whistleblower strategy, and the awarding of an N4 billion monthly surveillance contract to ex-militant Government Ekpemupolo, among others, have recently been taken, little progress has been seen.

According to Osifo, this will be the first time in years that crude oil prices would soar to unprecedented heights. But despite the oil price per barrel hovering around $100 for months, he bemoaned the fact that Nigeria was still in dire financial straits.

“As a nation, we are still borrowing to support our appropriations,” he said. To fund our budget, the Nigerian government has borrowed somewhere between N6 trillion and N7 trillion this year alone.

According to the head of PENGASSAN, if there were no crude oil theft and Nigeria could produce up to 1.9 million barrels per day, there would be no need for local and international borrowings to the point where the industrial sector would no longer be able to borrow money from banks.

He said PENGASSAN could no longer remain passive after the failure of office discussions and announced that protests will start in the four zones today with the theme “Chasing Oil Thieves and Vandals Out of Business.”

According to the PENGASSAN chairman, the practice will continue until the government took action to stop the vandals and oil thieves.

In the industry, he claimed, shut-ins were becoming all too common, and every time a barrel was locked in, $100 was lost. He claims that daily oil production losses might reach $1 billion.

According to Osifo, even oil businesses who are struggling to produce get as little as 2% of the input they pour into the terminals, sometimes just producing water.

Therefore, we will start holding similar rallies starting tomorrow (today). We’re going to tell the government to do something,” he said.

He asserts that employees are often the first victims of chronic underproduction, and PENGASSAN members are losing their jobs throughout the country.

According to him, “if you are not earning money as a producer, most of the money you pump into your capex is affected, and that is where our members in the oil service firms receive their pay from.”

He said that several oil companies were no longer interested in hiring new employees since they were having trouble paying their current employees and were halting output. He said that not even the largest businesses were immune, including Agip, Addax, and Total E&P as examples of organizations that had to halt some of their output owing to the threat.

According to Osifo, SPDC is currently one of the worst hit. Many of their locations are closed. Gentlemen, the current administration has a serious task and a crisis that requires it to muster the political will and the will to pursue the oil thieves.

Regardless of party membership or political inclination, PENGASSAN asked all Nigerians to get together to address the issue since it was already impacting everyone.

Since the federation had not been profiting from the NNPCL, Osifo said, the only explanation for the sums being distributed each month was that money was being produced for that reason each month.

He cited what the Nigerian National Petroleum Company’s (NNPCL) Group Chief Executive Officer said at a briefing last week: “Everyone from the top to the lowest, including security agencies, communities, and oil employees, were complicit in oil theft.”

Osifo said that there had been “absolute collaboration and utter connivance.”

He emphasized that the tremendous oil theft that was still occurring in the Niger Delta waterways was unexplainable, and he insisted that the small number of people detained did not correspond to the scale of the theft that was taking place.

We need to take action now, he said. “Overnight, the security personnel became multi-millionaires.”

The PENGASSAN chairman claims that as long as certain security officers are being paid to be sent to the Niger Delta, there would be no resolution to the problem.

The head of the oil workers said, “Total collaboration is there, and this cooperation must end.

Osifo said that neglecting Nigeria’s oil-producing regions was not the answer to the widespread theft of the country’s resources. He emphasized that the issue was adversely impacting both the derivation monies available to the governments as well as the payments to be provided to communities under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

“Government has to wake up,” he said. Consequences must follow. Armed forces, civil defense, and navy personnel cannot be sent to the Niger Delta’s waterways without a system of accountability in place. Accountability is essential.

Insisting that the customary transfer is no longer sufficient punishment, he urged the service chiefs to hold their employees responsible and be prepared to send officers who collude to steal oil to jail.

“After these protests and there is no discernible change,” said Osifo, “our association may resort to withdrawing its staff from the operational firms because we cannot continually pump crude oil into pipelines and at the end of the day, they are vandalized and stolen.”

The lives of oil workers were often in danger when production was halted as a result of theft and vandalism, he said.

The ecosystem in the Niger Delta has been completely wrecked, he said, therefore “we can no longer condone this.”

“This is hardly a poor man’s trade. Because of the advanced technology required to break a pipeline, it is a cartel, he said.

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