Government officials conniving with pipeline vandals to steal oil in Nigeria, Senate President says

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The President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said on Tuesday there were government officials conniving with criminals to vandalize pipelines and steal oil. Lawan said those officials should be sanctioned and prosecuted when identified.

Lawan made the accusation in his remarks after the consideration of the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Pipeline Explosions during plenary.

Accordingly, Lawan directed the Senate Committee on Petroleum (downstream) to invite the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to ensuring a review of security measures for pipelines in parts of the country.

The Senate President also said the National Assembly will amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act to prevent the activities of pipeline vandals that leads to explosions and deaths.

He said: “Our Committee on Petroleum (downstream) should invite the NNPC with a view to know what they have been doing over the years to secure the pipelines; what measures are in place and whether there is need to review these agreements.

“This is a multi-billion dollar industry. People consciously do these things, it’s not an accident. Those who are caught in the fires or who come to scavenge are the ones who end up losing their lives. This is not acceptable.

“There must be sanctions, somebody will have to pay the price and of course, after these resolutions are sent to the executive, our committee must follow it up.

“When we have to amend the NOSDRA Act, this is something that we have to do expeditiously. We should do it because it will help in preventing or minimising reoccurrence of these criminal acts.”

Earlier in his contribution to the debate on the report, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) blamed the activities of pipeline vandals on officials of the NNPC.

The lawmaker, therefore, called for the introduction of punishment for any official of the corporation caught conniving with pipeline vandals.

“If there is no punishment for any offence, the tendency that it will be repeated severally will be there.

“The people in NNPC must find those people and discipline them. I’m suggesting that the downstream committee should follow up this issue to make sure those people managing these pipelines face the music. We have to get these people and ensure they are punished,” Utazi said.

The lawmaker also called for the amendment of the NOSDRA Act.

“Let us get all these laws concerned with the regulation of the petroleum industry amended holistically,” he added.

Another lawmaker, Senator Ibrahim Musa (APC, Jigawa North) said the government should “focus on the criminal rings responsible for the initial pipeline breakage.”

Senator Rochas Okorocha (APC, Imo West), who described pipeline vandalism as an act of economic sabotage, called on the Federal Government to subject the surveillance of oil pipelines to contractual arrangements with private firms.

Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central), accused the NNPC of conniving with vandals to sabotage the economy by encouraging the activities of oil pipeline vandals.

“This is not an act of negligence but connivance. The NNPC knows what to do and cannot claim ignorance.

“The NNPC knows from their office when a pipeline is vandalised. I want to support my colleagues that they should be punished.”

According to the Ad-Hoc committee’s report, the incidences of pipeline explosions in Rivers and Lagos States would have been avoided if the NNPC/Nigerian Pipeline Storage Company (NPSC) and contractors monitoring the pipelines were proactive.

Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, said both NNPC/NPSC and the contractor were aware of the Komkom pipeline leakage in Rivers State, two days before the explosion but delayed in taking necessary action.

The lawmaker disclosed further that both NNPC/NPSC and the Oilserv contractor were aware of the intended activity of the vandals and the leakage a week and a day respectively, before the Ijegun explosion in Lagos State.

He added that security personnel in connivance with NPSC staff collaborated with the vandals to siphon petroleum products from the pipelines.

The Senate, after consideration of the report on pipeline explosions, adopted all 15 recommendations by the Ad-Hoc Committee.

Accordingly, the Senate recommended that the NNPC without further delay should embark on Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in re-laying pipelines especially in identified hotspots where erosion has exposed the pipelines to the surface.

The upper chamber also recommended that the NNPC involve members of host communities in pipeline surveillance within their various areas as an interim preventive measure.

The Senate further recommended the deployment of modern technology in pipeline surveillance and detection of leakages as well as the introduction of “cathodic prevention of the pipelines”.

It also directed NNPC to refund to the Treasury, the “outrageous” sum of three hundred and eighty-two million two hundred and three thousand fifty-five naira seventy four kobo (N382,203,055.74) it claimed to have used in firefighting operation in Komkom and provide evidence of compliance to the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.

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