Crude oil has lost its substantial value the world over; and, there are fears that countries relying heavily on delivering this product as its main source of revenue may have to literally drink its oil in no distant future. But in the meantime, crude oil and petroleum products are still the greatest source of our country’s revenue even as the government strives to diversify the economy. And while the government is at this, protecting the goose that lays the golden egg, which is the petroleum sector, is a task that cannot be compromised.

In fact, oil accounts for about 92 per cent of our national revenue. The Punch newspaper reports: “An analysis of the foreign trade statistics obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that out of the total export earnings of N3.1tn for the second quarter of 2017, oil and gas accounted for a whopping N2.43 trillion while the non-oil sector accounted for the balance of N670 billion”.

The revenue accruable to the nation, through the oil sector, has been on the decrease in the past five years, further jeopardizing the economic health of the country with all its consequences on service delivery and the ability of the government in fulfilling its electoral promises to the people.

Factors responsible for the drop and loss of revenue in the oil and gas sector include global crash in crude oil price as a result of glut in the market, improved technology in the area of sourcing for alternative energy supply; and, the incessant disruption in oil production as a result of pipeline vandalism.

Whereas the hands of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), may be tied with regards to oil glut and fracking technology, there is a lot it can do to contain incessant disruptions in production as a result of vandalisation of oil pipelines, theft and illegal bunkering.

As industry watchdogs, NEITI, in its audit report, said that Nigeria recorded the highest crude oil loss in the last 18 years with the humongous average of 245 million barrels going down the drain in 2016. Again in 2016, for instance, crude oil produced was 659.13 million barrels, “the only year production fell below the 700 million barrel mark since 1999”.

Specifically, it has been reported that between March and December of 2016, the country suffered a crude oil loss that averaged 130 million barrels. As a matter of fact, about six different force majeure incidents were declared in 2016. The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) accounted for three out of that number and had to shut down the subsea 48-inch Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP).

The TFP was shut for seven months, thus impacting on several other oil companies injecting into it.  These companies include Seplat, Panocean and Waltersmith all of which had to shut down for 147 days, with all its consequences on production, job employment and national revenue.

The TFP remains a critical national asset which must be adequately and efficiently protected in the national interest. Of course the NNPC has come to the conclusion that such critical oil infrastructure, capable of transporting 200,000 to 240,000 barrels of oil per day, representing an equivalent of 14 per cent of the nation’s daily production, must receive the best available surveillance and security.

The dismal performance of Eraskorp Nigeria Limited (ENL), the former contractors saddled with the security and surveillance on the TFP, which led to scandalous pipeline vandalism, oil theft and incessant disruptions in the production process, leading to loss of humongous revenue, made the decision of NNPC to seek a more reputable contractor easier.

An indigenous company with first-class global ratings, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL), came highly recommended to NNPC in the award of the oil infrastructure surveillance contract for the protection of 87-kilometer TFP.  The NNPC noted the excellent performance of OMSL in successfully eliminating illegal oil bunkering and theft on the Escravos – Warri pipeline and Bonny-Port Harcourt crude oil pipeline and thus invited the company to replicate the same success on TFP, whose former surveillance and security providers proved highly incompetent.

“The decision to assign the TFP surveillance package to Ocean Marine Solutions was reached after consideration of huge losses on TFP and rigorous appraisal of the company’s impressive record of performance on the Bonny-Port Harcourt and Warri-Escravos crude evacuation lines,” said Ndu Ughamadu, spokesperson to NNPC in a press statement.

While many patriotic citizens applaud the NNPC for this forthright position of not reinforcing failure in the TPF surveillance contract, those who probably would have been shot for economic sabotage had military rule persisted, have chosen to undermine not only the NNPC but also the entire nation by promoting mischief and even unrest in the TFP host communities. A dangerous smear and calumnious campaign has been launched by those who failed to protect a critical national asset for which they were handsomely paid.

Those who let their country down by sabotaging its economy by looking the other way as oil thieves, illegal bunkerers and vandals daily damaged oil pipelines entrusted to their care are now fighting back to frustrate the take-off of a new era of secured TFP.  First, they childishly claimed that due process was not followed in the award of the contract to OMSL. And when NNPC busted that lie, they claimed that the newly-awarded contract is a sheer waste of public funds, which is another lie from the pit of hell.

Not attracting the sympathy of discerning citizens, these unpatriotic elements are all over the place allegedly mobilizing ill-informed youths of the Niger Delta and misinforming them with incendiary falsehoods of an imaginary loss of jobs with the proposed contract award to OMSL– just to set the oil-bearing region ablaze. How much unpatriotic, selfish and desperate can some people get?

It is rather interesting that NNPC has set the record straight in the award of the TFP surveillance contract to OMSL. It is clear to anyone who cares to know that there was nothing opaque in the process of offering the job to OMSL, who did not even bid or lobby for the contract. OMSL’s record of successful performance in protecting other pipelines in the Niger Delta, thus saving the country huge sums, is evident enough.

Second, the bad losers of course will definitely do anything to hide the fact that government is actually saving more money with the OMSL contract award with the proof of concept agreement, which mandates OMSL to bear the cost of any damage to the facilities, which will in turn reduce disruptions in the production. This therefore means much more revenue to the Federal Government.

Recruiting criminal elements to foment trouble among pipeline host communities with the naked lie of imminent job losses in the communities will never help yesterday’s saboteurs. On the contrary, many jobs will be created with the greater efficiency of the surveillance providers. Without disruptions, it is only logical that, at optimal production capacity, even more hands will be required by OMSL, NNPC and other joint venture partners.  NNPC has publicly declared that it is not about to change its community engagement model for asset protection, which obligates OMSL to engage youths in the TFP right-of-way in executing its mandate.

It must also interest Niger Delta youths that the promoter of OMSL is Capt. Idahosa Okunbo, a man who single-handed brought global attention to the plight of the Niger Delta people as a result of oil exploration and exploitation by sponsoring a blockbuster movie, titled “The Black November”. He certainly will never involve in any deal that will short-change the interest of the ordinary Niger Delta People – whether children, women, youths or adults!