Causes And Effects Of Pipeline Vandalism In Nigeria. The delta of the Niger River is located on the bight of Bonny, off the Guinea Gulf on the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria. It occupies a land area of about 112,110 Square kilometers, and also very densely populated, with over 28 million people as of 2006. It constitutes of nine states namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers.
The people of the Niger Delta have a very rich and diverse culture, heritage and economy, with about 40 different groups and 250 languages, the most populated of these groups are the Ijaws. The economic activities of the people before “The Black Gold” was farming, fishing, oil palm production, coral beads making, trading, and traveling, this is due to their terrain, which is characterized by mangrove, swamps, coastal rivers, rain forest, fresh water, savannah and montane zones.
After the discovery of oil in 1956 and the digging of the first oil well with a total production of 5100 BBls/Day, there has been a dominance of oil and gas production in Nigeria’s economy, this sector contributed 10.29% of the total GDP growth in the first quarter of 2016. This brought the Niger Delta Region to great prominence in global politics.
Oil and Gas production in Nigeria consists of 386 oil fields, 2800 producing oil wells, and 3 refineries, including various onshore and offshore platforms spanned across the Niger delta. Petroleum pipeline transportation networks which resides over 31,000 Sq.KM across the country, linking 215 flow stations, 10 export terminals, 22 storage depots, 4 refineries, etc. Over 7000 km of these oil and gas pipelines are situated in this region, with over 1500 Niger Delta communities hosting these facilities, however, due to corrosion and rupture due to old age(50%), sabotage (28%), production operations (21%), and poor pipeline security, these pipelines face severe vandalism, thereby causing oil spills, fire outbreaks, and blow outs.
What is pipeline vandalism, popularly called “oil bunkering”?
According to the legal dictionary, Vandalism is an intentional and malicious destruction of or damage to the property of another, because this poses a threat to society, it is deemed a statutory offense and a crime. In terms of oil, we can say; it is the illegal act of puncturing or destroying oil pipelines to steal petroleum products, obstruct distribution for personal use, sales on black market or process in illegal refineries.
In Nigeria, the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act of 1975 governs the petroleum vandalism law, the act states that any person who willfully does, aids, incites, counsels another with intent to obstruct or prevent the production/procurement/distribution of petroleum products in any part of Nigeria will be guilty of the offense of sabotage, and is liable to a death sentence or a term of imprisonment of up to 21 years.
According to NNPC, from 2010-2014 a total of 20,965 cases of pipeline vandalism have occurred.
Known pipeline vandalism accidents
- October 17th 1998 and July 10th 2000, an incident in Idjerhe Clan comprising 32 communities in Ethiope West Local Government Council of Delta State, Southern Nigeria when a 16 inch petrol pipeline linking the Warri refinery to Kaduna exploded at Atiegwo, leaving hundreds of villagers dead and critically injuring hundreds more in the ensuing inferno. The community most affected was Jesse, the main town in the area.
- In September 2004, an oil pipeline exploded near Lagos as thieves tried to siphon oil from it, with up to 50 people perishing in the flames.
- 12th May 2006, Gasoline pipeline blast on Atlas Creek Cove (Isanki Island), killed up to 200 people, explosion killed anyone within a 20 mile radius.
- The Abule Egba pipeline explosion which occurred on 26 December 2006 in the heavily populated neighborhood, killing hundreds of people. The incident occurred after an elevated pipeline carrying petroleum products was punctured by thieves earlier at midnight, attracting hundreds of scavengers in the district who collected the fuel using plastic containers.
Several other accidents causing hundreds of deaths occurred between 1998-2010 timeline
Causes of pipeline vandalism
- Faulty and corrosive pipelines: As stated earlier, three major causes of oil spills are production operations, sabotage and corrosion. Deterioration of pipelines used in transportation networks, makes these pipelines vulnerable to punctures, breaks and exposure for vandals with the sole purpose of stealing petroleum products.
- Unfulfilled expectations/promises by oil producing companies and the Federal Government: There were high expectations that oil producing companies and the Federal Government would develop the Niger Delta providing social amenities such as electrical power, healthcare, road networks, youth empowerment programs, employment, and overall community development. However, this never happened, as little or no development came to these areas, leading to mass poverty in the region. Instead land acquisition, neglect and misuse of special development funds occurred causing uprisings in the region.
- Environmental degradation of these hosting communities: In the early 1990s, after some thirty years of pilferage of the Niger Delta, ethnic groups began to protest against environmental degradation, eco-system damage and population displacement of their communities. This eco-system damage on water bodies, farmlands and the terrain without adequate and appropriate clean-ups reduced the economic activities and access to clean water of the local communities.
- Corrupt leadership and bureaucracy: Amidst the 1970s oil boom, there was a massive monopoly of the oil sector by power groups. “Special rewards” of oil resources went to affiliates of political elites, these special rewards where procured via briberies of Federal, State and up to communities and clan leaders causing an unequal distribution of oil resource assets amongst a certain well connected 1% of the Nigerian population.
- Greed and youthful exorbitance: There are certain delusions of grandeur nursed by some die-hard young individuals who see this avenue as a get-rich-quick scheme. This normally occurs when wealthy criminals pry on these young minds by empowering them with instruments for pipeline vandalism for their own selfish interests and rewards them with cash compensations.
Effects of pipeline vandalism
- Environmental pollution and ecosystem damage: Oil spills can harm living organisms, vegetation and water bodies with its chemical composites which are poisonous to groundwater and soils, this can occur through internal exposure such as ingestion, inhalation and external exposure through skin, eye irritation, which is a carcinogenic risk in the long run. These deposits on land surface can impede growth of crops and severe bush burning if ignited.
- Fire outbreak: When these vandalism attacks occur, vulnerable citizens nearby, innocent communities and clans close to these facilities feel the impact in terms of fire outbreaks, if these petroleum products are ignited. These explosions sometimes occur for days razing villages, leaving victims, orphans and loss of properties in its wake.
- Economic loss: According to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI)in 2013 reports analyzed the effect of oil theft and sabotage in Nigeria revealed that a total of $10.9 billion in potential oil revenues was lost between 2009 and 2011. With the recent attacks, conservatives estimate that the total daily loss to the country is at N470, 479,931.
- Plant and refinery downtime: The attacks on the various crude supply lines (Bonny-Okrika, Escravos-Warri) to the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries will cause a major downtime on oil refining process from refinery shutdowns.
- Fuel scarcity: Due to the refinery downtime, the NNPC will not be able to meet with its quota of fuel supply, causing the market to lean solely on Independent marketers, and with the fluctuating Foreign Exchange prices, the much detested scarcity and increase in pump price will occur.
- Electrical power outage: According to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, the recent attacks on the NGC pipeline connected to Chevron’s facility at Escravos and Trans Forcadoes Pipeline, will impact negatively on the Olorunsogo NIPP plant and other power plants. This impeded gas pipeline contribution to the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS) will lead to a loss of 1100MMScfD of gas volume. By industry estimates, a loss of 200MMScfD is equal to power reduction of 800MW, compare that to a 4120Mwh/H of the average electrical industry generation capacity.
- Population displacement and loss of lives: From the 1990s-date, there has been over 10,000 deaths from pipeline vandalism, massive migration due to environmental degradation, fire outbreaks, and security threats.
The people of the Niger Delta have suffered years of neglect, oppression and corruption, thus some feel they can get a bit of solace through violent uprisings and vandalism. The Federal Government, Multi-national Oil Companies and Stakeholders should come to a decision on these negative causes and activities by ensuring strict environmental laws and clean-ups, sustainable development, proper repairs, protection and investigations on oil pipelines, reduce access to pipelines by subsurface bury, and involve these communities by increasing their stakes in the oil resources.
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