When the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) entered into a security agreement with Tantita Security Services Limited to tackle crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, very few Nigerians had expressed support for the deal. It was widely believed that the security of such a critical national asset should not be handed over to a non-state actor.
Before the contract was awarded, NNPCL’s Group Chief Executive, Mele Kyari, and the then Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, had raised the alarm that more than 700,000 barrels of Nigerian oil were being stolen daily. The Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Army, and non-state actors were allegedly responsible for the massive oil theft in the region.
The knock-on effect of this crude oil theft is that foreign exchange reserves are under considerable pressure, as the shortage of US dollars causes the naira to depreciate. Nigeria also relies on crude oil and gas revenues to fund much of the federal government’s budget.
Soon after the agreement was sealed, it started yielding positive results as the country began experiencing an increase in crude oil sales at the international market. Cumulatively, Nigeria’s national oil production recovered to an average of more than 1.47 million barrels per day in November from an all-time low of 1.1 million barrels per day before the contract was signed in August 2022, according to documents released by the NNPCL. This translates to an increase of over 300,000 Bpd.
Likewise, findings further suggest that oil production continues to improve significantly as more and more wells and associated surface facilities, hitherto shut down by ongoing theft and vandalism, and reopen. Specifically, narrowing down on the Joint Venture assets, mainly onshore, which were mostly affected by the security challenges, the NNPCL had witnessed a slump in production from a monthly average of 800,00 Bpd in January 2022 to about 500,000 Bpd in August 2022.
The country’s average joint venture oil production in the August – November 2022 period increased by about 190,000 barrels per day. A breakdown of the joint venture’s increase showed that as of August, oil production averaged 502,759 barrels per day, which is the lowest this year.
According to the document, production rose to 521,834 Bpd in September this year following the signing of the safety contract on August 13, before rising further to an average of 590,431 Bpd and 668,147 Bpd in October and November. Before the agreement, disruptions to major arterial lines severely had also affected gas production and evacuations, depriving gas-fired power plants and industrial feedstock operations.
However, over the past four months, NNPCL has recovered an average of approximately 500 million standard cubic feet per day of gas production. This added over 230 MMSCFD to export via Nigeria LNG, and an additional volume of about 205 MMSCFD for power generation and other domestic uses.
But penultimate week, the Tantita Security and Navy traded blame over the arrest of a vessel loaded with crude oil along the coastal areas of Ondo State. While the Nigerian Navy, in a statement by the Director of Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, announcing the arrest of a 77-metre-long vessel, accused Tantita Security of being involved in illegal activities, the management of the security company denied involvement in illegal activities.
In a statement, its Executive Director of Operations and Technical, Warredi Enisuoh described the Navy’s allegations as bizarre and mischievous.
Enisuoh in an interview with ARISE NEWS last Monday stated that his company was not at loggerheads with the Navy but only had a problem with those who are against fixing the country. He added that there were “Judases” in every sector of the country, even in the Navy.
“Tantita’s relationship with the Navy has not broken down. If you listen to the Navy, they said they work with a lot of other private security service providers. But I guess it is a bit of a culture shock that maybe for the first time, they are working with someone like Tantita who has got such tenacity and capacity to do damage to those who want to do damage to Nigeria. We have Judas everywhere. We have Judas in the Navy.
“We got our informant from Ghana who told us that a ship has departed Ghana with the intention to come and steal crude oil from Nigeria. This was November 10, this year. We knew about it and we knew this ship is well connected and we followed this ship till it switched off its electronic signature three weeks ago and we had to create an EPB, an umbrella over the Niger Delta region and we kept monitoring.
“Let me tell you the history of this ship. First, the Sierra Leonean flag was stolen from Nigeria and nobody could catch it. We were not here at the time. Second, it came closer to Nigeria, possibly scared of the previous administration’s stand against this oil theft. It kept its flag as Togolese but something very ironic happened in May this year – it changed its flag to Nigeria.
“It must be connected to someone who thinks he has won and feels that ‘we can steal now’. So, who was being protected? When we caught this particular ship, we followed it for over a month. We got intelligence that yes, that it is in the area and we left in the morning to make sure that we secure the ship.
“We got there but, on our way there, we got further intelligence that they have got four AK-47s with bands of ammunition on board. When we got that intel, we said to hang on around the area till we get back up.
“While waiting for that backup, we believe they radioed their shore supporters to come to their rescue and that was how the fracas started. It takes about 30 minutes to get to that location, secure yourself and connect the hose. As we speak, we know who connected the hose.”
Enisuoh called for more investigation to be carried out on this matter. He noted that there was more to this ship than meets the eye.
While it is important for the NNPC to thoroughly investigate the allegations and counter-allegations, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry need to cooperate with the government to end crude theft and pipeline sabotage. All collaborators – whether in the Navy, Tantita Security, NNPCL, international oil companies (IOCs) and national oil companies (NOCs), or among the regulators, supervisors, or managers, should be arrested and prosecuted for economic sabotage.
On their part, Niger Delta communities and their leaders should spare no efforts to combat oil theft in the region. Bunkering, sabotage of pipelines and illegal refineries are criminal acts that not only threaten Nigeria’s economic security but also damage the environment and aquatic life. This fight requires a joint effort to tackle(This Day).