How to curb oil theft, pipeline vandalism, by NLNG ex-spokesman
By EDU ABADE, Business Editor
To effectively check oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the country, the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders should endeavour t o show empathy to host communities and award pipelines surveillance and protection contracts to members of the communities who understand their domains better.
A former Public and Community Relations Manager with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited (name withheld), stated this while reacting to the vexed issue of oil theft and pipelines vandalism in the country. According that the routine of government and oil industry players to award such contracts to politicians in Abuja and other places, who use the police to carry out the duties.
He cited the recent pipeline surveillance and protection contract re-awarded to former Niger Delta militants’ leader, Government Ekpomukpolo, popularly called Tomopolo, insisting that such contracts are better managed by members of the host communities, who understand the complexities of their localities.
He said: “In the case of NLNG, we ensured that the surveillance and grass cutting contracts were awarded to land owners. We did this knowing that the owners of the land know how best to protect it, otherwise it would not have remained in their ancestry since God knows when and as owners they, more than any other parties, were entitled to its revenue.
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“The contract guaranteed them income in the duration of the project and pipeline. This simple move proved very radical. Security agents in the police, SSS and military advised against it, because it alienated them. Politicians and community leaders opposed it, saying they were in charge of security in their villages and should naturally be the contract holders. We stood our ground, despite the intimidation, harassment and sometimes physical assaults.”
He explained that based on that decision, there was no single case of vandalism on NLNG pipelines for over 16 years, except in the swamps, bogs and marshes and such cases were usually reported promptly by the land owners, who survey the 217 kilometers pipeline traversing Bonny to Kalabari, Ogba, Ikwerre, Abua and Ekpeye in Rivers State in canoes daily.
“No land owner would permit any militant to vandalise a pipeline under his care, because the contract prescribes no payment for any landlord that allows any portion of pipeline under his jurisdiction to be vandalised.
“Till date, the NLNG has little or no worries regarding its pipelines while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell, Agip and other multinational oil companies sometimes record up to 5,000 breakages. Showing empathy for the voiceless goes a long way! That, I dare say, is the answer to oil theft, which I consider the work of karma,” he added.
He also explained that even more effective ways of resolving pipeline vandalism and oil theft epidemic in the country was to pay compensations to land owners for cash crops felled along the way, adding: “It was a difficult job in every sense of the word, because some desperate local manufactured shrines overnight to claim payments for their gods.
“In that role, I regularly appeared before magistrates in Ahoada and other courts in Rivers State to defend the company from aggrieved villagers. My heart was with the villagers because most of them got only N5,000, N10,000, N20,000 or N30,000 at the most for their cash crops, the result of enumeration from consultants.”
He maintained that the Nigerian Land Use Decree of 1978 was a brutal law, as it took ancestral lands free of charge from their owners and only paid for cash or economic trees.
“Observing and supervising and in some cases, enforcing (with Mopol and military officers) the law left a wound on my conscience and those of some of my colleagues. I watched helplessly as the villagers were being economically raped, but helpless in the face of an almighty Federal Government,” he lamented.