By Foster Obi
There are indications that the country may be heading for major crisis as oil workers plan for mother of all shutdown to protest the escalating theft of the country’s oil running into billions of Naira with the government looking totally helpless and clueless.
Close sources said that the workers who feel utterly scandalized at the level of complacency by the government towards this ‘sacrilegious theft and siphoning’ of the soul of the economy, are mobilizing every strata of the industry for a buy in into the strike that will likely bring the very facet of the economy on bended knees.
Among other cases, the workers and analysts believe that the recent arrest of a supertanker with capacity for three million barrels of oil, about three times the one million barrels per day (bpd), clearly validates the widely held suspicion that siphoning of the country’s oil wealth is perpetrated by a syndicate. This syndicate involves the military, surveillance companies, politicians, local communities, high-level government officials and international collaborators.
According to Newspaper reports, security agents operating across the country reported the recovery of stolen crude oil valued N86.2 billion in August alone. Also, a total of 16, 000 litres of diesel valued at N800/litre (N12.8m) were reported to have been recovered by members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Cross River.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Timipre Sylva who described this as a ‘national emergency,’ said that the country loses 400,000 barrels of crude daily via oil theft.
Corroborating this, managing director and country chair for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and Shell Companies in Nigeria, Osagie Okunbor, said oil theft was one of the reasons that Nigeria could not meet its OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels a day.
“Two of our most important pipelines in this country today are shut down with hundreds of thousands of barrels a day shut-in,” Okunbor said without giving details, adding, “It is a fact that the issue of theft, whether as a standalone or as the basis for us to meet our OPEC quota is an existential threat for this industry.”
The Shell boss said local companies that won licenses to develop marginal fields would face challenges to transport their crude once they start production.
Critics say that as things stand in the oil sector, the situation may snowball into a state of anarchy if the government does not take decisive steps to arrest the looming crisis.