In response to widespread oil thefts in the Niger Delta, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSN) on Wednesday threatened a confrontation with the federal government.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, the President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, blamed troops and other security personnel guarding the nation’s oil pipelines for the ongoing oil theft.
If government did not stop the theft, the association, he warned, would suspend oil production.
Additionally, he said that the association would organize simultaneous rallies today, Thursday, in Abuja, Warri, Kaduna, and Lagos.
He claimed that despite security agencies protecting pipelines, the rallies would show the government that PENGASSAN members were fed up with generating oil that would eventually be taken by criminals.
Osifo bemoaned the impact of oil theft and demanded the imprisonment of security guards tasked with guarding pipelines from which massive amounts of crude oil were being taken every day, highlighting the fact that many oil businesses were ceasing operations as a result of this trend.
He added that because the theft jeopardized the jobs of its employees, major international oil corporations including Agip, Total, Shell, and Addax have stopped oil production in several wells.
He said, “If after this rally there is no traceable progress, as an association, we may be forced to withdraw our workforce from the operating companies, because we cannot continuously send crude oil into the pipelines and at the end of the day the pipelines are vandalised by people who don’t know how the oil was produced.
“Some of these pipeline vandals, when you stop production into a line, they call our members and threaten them, asking our members why they stopped production into the line and that they should open the line.
“So, the lives of our members are even at risk. For someone to have your phone number and call you, that means the person knows you. Therefore, we can no longer condone this, government must sit up.”
Osifo said the vandals had been deploying sophisticated technology, as it was not just members of host communities that were perpetuating the crime.
“It is a cartel that does this, because to be able to compromise a pipeline, the technology you need is so superb and not something that can be done easily,” he stated.
He added, “So, today it has become necessary for us as an association to cry out and shout because if necessary steps are not taken we will be forced to embark on a nationwide solidarity by withdrawing our members from production.
“Let us join and assist the government, since they are not responding to what they ought to do, they are not responsive in fighting this criminality, being that they don’t have the political will to fight this criminality, we will withdraw our members and let the country run aground.
“We cannot continue to produce and some people will siphon it, sell and become millionaires in dollars on a daily basis. We can no longer support this.”
The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, had last week Tuesday said the spate of vandalism had prompted the NNPC to shut down its entire network of pipelines conveying petroleum products nationwide.
“When we say we are losing several 700,000 barrels of crude oil daily, we mean it. This is opportunity loss. There is no company that will produce oil and then you lose 80 percent of that and continue to produce the oil.
“So we deliberately shut down the pipelines whenever we see these infractions getting to a limit that we cannot manage. So that means as we speak today, we know for sure, there’s at least 700,000 barrels that we could have produced that we can’t because we cannot guarantee the safety of the pipeline,” Kyari explained.
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