Vandalism is a problem in Nigeria. Oil theft suspects here shown.
Oil thief suspects. Nigeria spend billions on protection of oil pipelines from vandals. Photo: Magnus Boding Hansen/IRIN News

Vandalism; is the damage to public properties. Bottled resentment due to Niger Delta crisis has been blamed for instances of vandalism of oil and gas pipelines[i]. A total of 2,258 cases of pipeline vandalism were recorded in 2005 while 911 cases were reported in 2004. This culminated in the loss of products amounting to about 650,000 metric tonnes in 2005, costing the nation about N10 billion. In 2007, persistent vandalism of petroleum product pipelines in the country doubled with disheartening fatalities, damage to properties and fuel shortage. Shortage experienced during the Yuletide was blamed on the December 4 bursting of a pipeline at Ijedodo, in the Ijegun area of Ikotun, on the outskirts of the city. When Funsho Kupolokun, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, visited the scene of the Abule Egba disaster, he announced the challenge of policing the pipeline was that of all the citizens, adding that President Obasanjo had approved the building of another network of pipelines that would be buried deeper into the ground than the then practice of three feet depth[ii].

Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives, NEITI reported more than 136 million barrels of crude oil estimated at $10.9bn, accounting for 7.7 per cent of of the total revenue accruing to the federation was lost to theft and sabotage between 2009 and 2011[iii].

In Lagos and Ogun States Aquatic life in the riverine communities was troubled due to the activities of vandals who ran a thriving multimillion dollar ‘business’ until the suspension of petrol supply through some of the pipelines. Withered trees and brownish rivers reeking of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) defined the landscape as well. Creek dwellings in the riverine communities of Lagos and Ogun states, especially Elepete, may be located far from urban residential areas, but newly built houses and uncompleted structures abound, apparently intended by the vandals to bring them closer to the loading bay tagged ‘General’s Republic’. Until their venture into senseless raping, killing and kidnapping, the militants inhabited a world of their own. They hoisted flags and dug boreholes with links to underground Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines located kilometres away. Thus they raked in millions of dollars illegally.

Investigation revealed that gas stations located in the affected areas were major beneficiaries of stolen petroleum products, with some paying as low as N500,000 for the content of a 33,000-litre fuel tanker. It was also discovered that some of the stations were directly involved in the theft, as they had pumping machines directly connected to the pipelines. For many years, the business went on unhindered with residents of Ikorodu, Arepo, Ibafo, Igando and others connected by the waterways working as spies, informants and messengers for the vandals. They looked the other way whenever tankers and trucks laden with jerry cans of fuel passed through their communities in the wee hours of the night, particularly when their petty snacks and beverages businesses enjoyed greater patronage. With the eventual suspension of pipeline operation, however, the criminals no longer had access to the oil millions and they resorted to terrorising the residents who, in their belief, reported them to the authorities. Short of food and money, the criminals went after the residents, decimating their livestock, raiding shops, raping women and children, stealing money, kidnapping for ransom some of the landlords. For several months, the rampaging militants held sway, as they ambushed and killed security operatives who dared to enter the creeks. Their onslaught continued unabated until July, when a joint taskforce codenamed Operation AWATSE launched an offensive to rid the communities of the urchins that have chased residents from their homes and killed nearly a thousand in two months. The concerned areas, which used to be a beehive, became deserted. For the few who managed to stay for lack of an alternative, dusk began at 5:00 p.m. and dawn not earlier than 8:00 a.m. Operation AWATSE Launched in 2014 by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to clear the Majidun area of Ikorodu[iv].

[i] Nations October 28, 2017

[ii] TELL January 15, 2007

[iii] Punch July 13, 2013

[iv] Nation October 22, 2016

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer