A total of 116.46 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, valued at N18.88bn was stolen in 2021, data from different reports obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited showed.
Figures contained in various NNPC reports on Product Pipeline Performance for PMS showed that from January 2021 till December last year, huge volumes of petrol imported into Nigeria by the national oil company did not get to their targeted destinations.
The products were lost through four pipeline segments including Atlas Cove-Mosimi and Atlas Cove-Idimu-Satellite, Mosimi-Ibadan, Ibadan-Ilorin and Port Harcourt-Aba.
For the month of January 2021, a total of 6.371 million litres of petrol was lost through three pipeline segment, excluding that of Port Harcourt-Aba, as there was no pumping operation on the line in January.
In the months of February, March and April 2021, the oil firm lost 5.317 million litres, 5.722 million litres and 7.366 million litres of petrol, valued at N787.88m, N855.28m and N1.09bn respectively.
In May, June and July 2021, NNPC lost 14.157 million litres, 10.585 million litres and 9.329 million litres of petrol respectively.
The values were N2.1bn, N1.57bn and N1.38bn for May, June and July respectively.
The losses continued in August, as 8.583 million litres of PMS valued at N1.27bn was stolen; September, 13.92 million litres worth N2.06bn was diverted; and in October, 14.075 million litres valued at N3.31bn was lost.
In the months of November and December 2021, the volumes of stolen petrol were 5.953 million litres and 15.085 million litres, respectively.
The NNPC put the value of petrol lost in November at N1.283bn, while that of December was worth N2.24bn.
A summation of the total volumes of PMS stolen during the 12-month period showed that the oil firm lost 116.46 million litres of petrol valued at N18.88bn.
NNPC has been the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for about four years running. Other marketers of the commodity stopped importing petrol due to the hassles in obtaining foreign exchange for its import.
Also, the inability of the Federal Government to deregulate PMS has made marketers shun its imports, leaving NNPC to continue in the provision of petrol.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Clement Isong, stated that if petrol was deregulated like other products, there would be no incentive for its theft and smuggling.
He told our correspondent that claims by some Nigerians that the deregulation of PMS would cause a hike in the cost of transportation were untenable, stressing that the country was losing billions by regulating the pump price of petrol.
Isong stated that the Federal Government through the defunct Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, deregulated diesel, kerosene, aviation fuel as well as cooking gas but left out petrol.
“Now you’re saying that if you deregulate petrol the price will go up. Yes, it will. But the price of everything else went up, so why is petrol different?” he asked.
He added, “You say it will increase the cost of transportation if it goes up. But in the last five years, the cost of transportation has gone up by about 253 per cent, whereas petrol prices have almost remained at similar rates.
“The prices of petroleum products have been going up everywhere, but why do we in Nigeria think that it shouldn’t go up in our country? Everything else is allowed to go up, except only this one.”
Isong stated that only a total deregulation of the downstream oil sector would solve the petroleum products’ crisis being faced in Nigeria.
This, he said, had contributed to the smuggling of PMS out of Nigeria to neighbouring nations, adding that some of the smuggled products could be among those stolen from NNPC.
The MOMAN official said, “For as long as the international prices continue to rise and we keep our own prices where they are, what will happen is that those countries will suck the products out of Nigeria and you simply will not find the product in Nigeria.”
song added, “If you go to those countries, the marketers there will tell you that they are unable to sell because of the product coming from Nigeria, it is killing their market. This happens in all the countries around Nigeria.”
He stated that the normal supply chain volumes would continue to go down because the products were leaving Nigeria, describing those smuggling out PMS as ordinary everyday citizens.
“This is because they simply make more money buying from here at N162-N165/litre and going across the border to sell at N500/litre. It is more money for them and it is simply the law of economics, called arbitrage, which is a market distortion,” Isong stated.
He added, “And it is what the subsidy on petrol does on Nigeria, a market distortion. Something is worth N500 and you’re selling at N200. Now where you’re supposed to find it at N200 you will not see it because it has moved to where the actual value of N500 is.
“This can also contribute to the scarcity we see in parts of Nigeria. That is why NNPC if it is meant to normally supply 60 million litres per day, for it to keep queues out of filling stations, it will have to increase its supply to 90 to 100 million litres. That’s the problem.”
The spate of pipeline vandalism in Nigeria rose sharply between 2021 and this year.
On Thursday, for instance, the Federal Government declared that the total value of Nigeria’s crude oil stolen via the rupturing of pipelines between January 2021 and February 2022 was about $3.27bn.
Also, international oil companies and their counterparts in Nigeria said the massive oil theft across the country currently posed a threat to not just their existence, but to the Nigerian economy.
Also, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had threatened that the Federal Government would deal decisively with vandals, stressing that the days of the culprits were numbered.
Sylva had also stated that aside from the vandalism of crude oil pipelines, Nigeria’s petrol imported and subsidised by the Federal Government through NNPC was being smuggled out of the country.
This, he said, had made it difficult to tell the actual volume of petrol consumed in Nigeria.
The minister explained that if the country’s petroleum products were smuggled outside the country, nobody could say what volume was involved today, tomorrow or next week, adding that NNPC could not say they know these figures.
“It’s more or less fueling a criminal economy. The NNPC imports the products, and nobody knows the exact destination of the products at the end of the day,” Sylva stated.
He added, “The imported products come to Nigeria, and from there filters out of our borders to neighbouring countries.
“So, as a country, we cannot tell the exact volume of petroleum products that we consume on a daily basis. All we have been doing is to assume the level of consumption over a period and work with that.”
He, however, expressed the belief that NNPC probably had a better answer to this, stressing that “personally, I don’t.
“I have said this publicly before that I don’t know the figure. When I assumed office, initially I was told that our daily consumption was 66 million litres.
“Then, when fuel prices increased from N145 to N162, the consumption figure temporarily fell to about 40 something million litres per day, because the arbitrage opportunity reduced,” Sylva stated.
He added, “Then the value of the naira dropped again, and the number went up again to over 60 million litres. I am told the figure sometimes rise to as high as 90 or over 100 million litres. I don’t know how that happens.
“At this rate, I have said if anyone is looking at a criminal enterprise, look no further than the fuel subsidy.”