By GBADEBO ADEAGBO
For so many years, Nigeria bestrides the oil and gas sector in the world like a colossus on the strength of her vast abundance of crude oil reserves and its higher quality.
As a result, the country became one of the most successful oil-exporting countries in the world. Her foreign earnings was pegged at about $340 billion dollars since the 1970s, putting the ‘Giant of Africa,’ arguably the most influential country in Africa in matters relating to oil, gas, and energy until now that she cannot even meet the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota.
Nigeria has continually relied on her oil reserves as the only catalyst that can spur economic growth and catapult the country to modernity, as was evidently witnessed in the ‘70s and ’80s when the nation’s full production capacity resulted in unprecedented development that made, perhaps out of youthful exuberance, Nigeria’s head of state General Yakubu Gowon to declare that money was no longer the country’s problem but how to spend it.
Perhaps, one could also assume that the abundance of Nigeria’s petrodollars has generated for decades might have diverted the attention of the government from taking a microscopic diagnosis of the cancer that has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria’s oil sector for many years.
To be sure, Nigeria has lost several billion dollars in oil theft activities. According to Bala Wunti, the Group Manager of National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPMS), “Nigeria loses about $700 million monthly and about 600,000 barrels of oil to the hands of criminals.”
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) also corroborated the claim when it stressed that the “country lost about $9 billion between 2019-2021 into the hands of oil saboteurs who surreptitiously carried out their clandestine acts, forcing the daily oil production capacity of the country to have fallen below the OPEC’s 1.73 million barrel.”
In the face of this colossal oil heists appears to one that Nigeria’s security architecture whose duty it is to protect the country’s national treasure has criminally left its task unattended to. From what’s now unfolding, it can even be said without any fear of contradiction that our country’s oil resource is being siphoned either with the collusion or acquiescence of military and paramilitary forces. Or both.
And this is where Chief Government Ekpemupolo, famously known as Tompolo comes in.
It does appears that the Federal Government has woken up from its deep slumber in its responsibility to safeguard, and protect our most precious natural resource on which our entire economy depends from the oil thieves. And it had thought it fit that there’s perhaps no better person to be saddled with this huge responsibility of safeguarding the country’s oil pipelines assets, since our military has obviously failed, than Tompolo and Tantita Security Services in which he has interest to be awarded the federal government contract.
Tompolo came into Nigerians’ consciousness as a militant leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). It was one of the major pressure groups from the deep South that drew federal government’s attention to the despoilation of Niger Delta and the subhuman conditions to which his people were (and perhaps still do) subjected by virtue of the activities of the oil companies in the region.
The pipeline surveillance contract, which is estimated to be 48 billion naira for one year, would span the length and breadth of Bayelsa, Ondo, Imo, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, and Delta states. As the federal government efforts to reclaim control of its oil pipelines from oil bandits and other vagabonds in the oil sector has now commenced with this pipeline surveillance contract, tremendous successes are already being recorded, thanks to Tompolo and his patriotic team.
Tompolo’s Tantita recently uncovered a 4 km long illegal oil pipeline that connects to the Forcados Terminal from the high seas in Delta state a few days after the full tactical operation commenced. This illegal pipeline has been responsible for the siphoning of Nigeria’s crude oil for close to a decade without interference. Other illegal bunkerings has also been discovered. What is more, Tompolo even uncovered illegal pipelines that are very close, and shockingly too, to a military checkpoint.
These shocking discoveries are therefore genuine justifications for the continuous decline in the production capacity of the country, which according to the NNPC, has declined to 1.1million barrels per day, and continuously dwindling.
It is important to stress here, however, that Nigeria is not the only oil producing country that is battling the menace of oil bunkering. In 2019, the Mexican government declared that it lost a whopping $3 billion per year to the underworld oil thieves. In Brazil, about $23million was reported to have been lost to oil theft while Libya’s lost was put at $750million in the recent past. But when one pays close attention to these countries, it would be discovered that their efforts in stemming the tides of oil thefts was largely traceable to the involvement of the private security networks of these countries.
It is safe to therefore argue that the federal government’s agreement with Tompolo and Tantita Security Services may well be the country’s lifeline from sliding further into a long, drawn out financial hemorrhage. Tompolo’s sheer display of patriotism and loyalty to his fatherland is highly unprecedented in the history of the country, especially now considering the high and existential risks that the acceptance of an assignment of this nature poses to several lives, including his own and wellbeing of communities.
The former Niger Delta warlord believes that the risk that the surveillance of the country’s pipelines poses to his life and that of his family is insignificant to the bleeding to death of an entire country as a result of the reckless activities of the oil bunkering mafia. He understands the Niger Delta terrain.
If Tompolo succeeds, and there’s little doubt he wouldn’t, in putting the oil criminals out of circulation, he would have his name written in gold in the country’s history book as a man who saved the country when it was tending towards the precipe and about to shipwreck, even as the contract value cannot equate to the favor Tompolo will be doing to his fatherland at this critical time.
Thus, considering the country’s current GDP of $440billion and a paltry $2,085 income per capita, Nigeria cannot afford to continue to lose a substantial proportion of its foreign earnings into the hands of these criminals. To do nothing about this serious economic sabotage is not an option especially when we are also battling other existential socio-economic challenges such as large scale armed banditry, herdsmen and farmers clashes, religion-induced violence, among others. This pipeline surveillance contract is therefore in the right direction.
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