Philip Agbese believes that the government’s contract to safeguard vital oil infrastructure is a positive start.
In my opinion, the concerns in our nation are often mixed up. This has been a typical quality. Responses to the contract given to a company to protect the nation’s vital oil infrastructure did not surprise me.
Even if oil theft costs the nation hundreds of billions of dollars every year, the government should be applauded for considering strategies to curb it. Instead, it was the incorrect reasons that caused the rumor mills to go berserk, giving it a religious and racial tint.
I’ll start with some alarming information: Nigeria suffers a monthly loss from oil vandalism of roughly $1.9 billion, which has a negative impact on the environment. Only over 132 million barrels of oil were received at export ports out of the 141 million barrels produced in the first quarter of 2022. From 103,000 barrels per day in 2021 to 108,000 barrels per day on average in the first quarter of 2022, crude oil theft has grown.
The theft led to the Bonny Oil & Gas Terminal’s declaration of force majeure, which turned the pipeline that transported petroleum from the Niger Delta to export boats unfriendly and discouraged investment.
I wonder what else would be done if these facts did not warrant concern. In light of this, it would be sufficient to declare that the government’s contract to protect vital oil infrastructure is a positive move. However, those who stand to gain financially from the theft are actively disseminating rumors about the objectives of the government.
Their spin doctors intensified the misinformation to an extreme degree. They neglected to mention, however, that a company with a track record of success rather than a person was chosen to get the contract. Mr. Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, is obviously the main subject. I dare to add, so what?
Tompolo, are you not a Nigerian? Can his business provide what it promises? Was the procedure for contract awarding open and transparent? Did the government take the appropriate action? There is no justification for the responses that the contract elicited if the aforementioned questions are answered in the affirmative.
In my opinion, the contract’s execution is subject to certain terms and conditions, not a bazaar or a jamboree as some would have the uninformed public think. Remember that the majority of these vital oil assets are located in the Niger Delta area, and any potential solutions should come from inside and from someone who is familiar with the dynamics of the Niger Delta region.
In my perspective, it was wise to grant the contract. It effectively conveys the government’s commitment in tackling the danger that oil theft poses to our economy. We must consider some of the activities we have taken as Nigerians. Politics shouldn’t dominate everything. This approach hasn’t worked for us in the past and won’t now. It is about finding realistic, local answers to our problems.
Additionally, it concerns improving government oil revenue. Making sure our oil infrastructure is safe is one way to do this. Our nation’s manufacturing capacity may be increased, and that would be great for the whole nation. The most important factor in addressing this kind of security risk that oil facilities confront wherever in the globe is often what and how it can be done rather than who is doing it.
I would want to know why the issue has continued despite the existence of the Nigerian Navy. Some people may disagree with my assessment of the Nigerian Navy’s function. The complexity of the terrain and other factors generate apparent gaps, which the private contractors would fill. Let me also add that the Navy has not been fully eliminated from the picture; rather, the addition of private contractors is meant to help and complement the Navy as the main goal is to safeguard the nation’s oil assets.
Furthermore, may I ask what part race or religion plays in safeguarding oil infrastructure? There are moments when I believe that our nation is not serious. I also ponder if we consider our public utterances before making them. Why would anybody believe that a contract of this size and complexity would be given without a fair procedure and clear terms of reference?
This really is a sad story. It strongly suggests that individuals with entrenched interests who have cheated the nation out of its oil and are enraged will do everything to undermine the government’s efforts in this area. However, I believe they utterly failed. The fact is that, given the pressing needs of many economic sectors, we cannot afford an oil theft of this size at this crucial juncture in our history.
It must end the practice of diverting funds intended for the nation into personal accounts. And we couldn’t give a damn if these criminals went to hell. The national interest, which has occurred, is what concerns to us. I must applaud the NNPC leadership for seizing the opportunity. I humbly beg to differ with anybody who suggests that the contract ought to be terminated because Tompolo is from a certain region of the nation. That would be the biggest prank ever, maybe making Nigeria a laughingstock.
Instead of advocating for the termination of the contract, I believe we should focus our efforts on assessing the outcomes. This is sensible. However, common sense is not universal, as they say. I believe the NNPC acted in good faith, and it is the responsibility of well-meaning Nigerians to see that the effort to safeguard the nation’s vital oil assets is successful.
Agbese is an Abuja-based campaigner for human rights.