Soni Daniel, Clara Nwachukwu, Emman Ovuakporie, Michael Eboh, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Egufe Yafugborhi, Brisibe Perez and Akpokona Omafuaire
The nation’s crude oil fortunes took another downward plunge, yesterday, following attacks by Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, on pipelines close to Escravos Tank Farm at Ciera creek, near Abiteye community, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited.
The attacks, on two separate gas and crude oil pipelines belonging to Chevron, Wednesday night, caught security agents and the oil company unawares.
It was learned that both lines were blown up during Wednesday’s downpour which prevented residents and workers from hearing the explosions.
An underground Chevron crude oil trunk line along the Ceria creek, near Abiteye, and a major electricity gas line were severely affected in the attacks.
Sources said both incidents happened a short distance from the company’s multi-billion dollar tank farm in Escravos. It was gathered that the incident was noticed by workers in the production department when they observed a drop in production pressure early yesterday.
Yesterday, a top Chevron management staff and a security source confirmed the incident to our correspondent. The source said a technical team of experienced engineers had been dispatched to the scene of the spill to ascertain the true cause.
A local source in the area said: “At the moment, the entire creeks are awash with crude oil.”
Another Chevron source, while confirming the incident, said: “The explosions occurred while it was raining. There are two Chevron gas lines, which are the onshore and offshore. It was the offshore pipeline that was affected, while the other one is a crude oil line. The affected pipelines are located between the Chevron Tank Farm and Ceria near Abiteye community.”
Efforts made to reach Isa Ado, spokesman of JTF, to speak on the development did not yield result as he did not respond to calls and SMS sent to his telephone. Deji Haastrup, Chevron’s spokesman, did not take calls put to his lines, while mail sent to him was also not replied at press time.
Meanwhile, Gbaramatu Kingdom was peaceful and calm after the attack.
Speaking on the constraints facing residents of the area, Public Relations Officer, PRO, Oporoza Youths, Paul Kirifede, said: “We did not record any form of attacks on oil installations in Gbaramatu. Our only challenge is that military operatives, who patrol the river every minute, are constantly molesting us. We cannot fish, neither can we embark on our daily business activities.”
FG meets stakeholders on bombings
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has moved to end the destruction of oil facilities by aggrieved Niger Delta militants, with a strategic meeting with some militant leaders in Abuja, as a first step.
The meeting was attended by high level government functionaries such as the governor of Edo State, Mr Adams Oshiomhole; National Security Adviser, NSA, Maj.-General Mohammed Monguno (retd); Minister for Niger Delta, Usani Uguru Usani; Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; Coordinator Amnesty Programme, Brigadier-General Paul Boroh (retd); and stakeholders from Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta and Ondo states.
Following the meeting, the Amnesty Coordinator and SA to the President on Niger Delta, Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), opted to move into the creeks to meet with the aggrieved groups and individuals in order to end the renewed cycle of attacks on oil facilities.
Boroh is to hold series of discussions with the militants to sheathe their swords and embrace peace.
He said: “The whole aim of my relocation to the Niger Delta creeks is to enable me identify the aggrieved individuals, groups and hold extensive discussions with them on the need to keep the peace since the government is working hard to put things right in the Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria.
“From available records, the Federal Government has not reneged on its amnesty package to the region and is working hard to improve the infrastructure needs of the Niger Delta, one of them being the Calabar-Lagos coastal railway, which is already captured in this year’s budget.”
Oil price rises to $50 per barrel
Also, oil price rose, yesterday, to $50 a barrel, for the first time in nearly seven months, as a global supply glut that plagued the market for nearly two years showed signs of easing.
The oil markets have suddenly been hit with a multitude of unexpected supply disruptions, the largest of which comes from the more than four million barrels per day that had been knocked offline because of wildfires in Canada as well as crisis in Libya and easing of United States supplies have contributed in buoying prices.
US pledges help
United States of America, USA, Consular General to Nigeria, Mr John Bray, yesterday, expressed his country’s preparedness to assist Nigeria restore peace and end the ongoing violence in the Niger Delta by Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups.
The consular-general, made the disclosure when he visited former national chairman of Association of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, ATROMPCON, and Pere of Seimbiri Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Charles Ayemi-Botu, at his Edjeba Palace Annexe, Warri.
Bray, who was visiting Warri for the first time, said: “We are looking at whatever we can do to assist the Nigerian government to establish a peaceful, prosperous region in the South-South of Nigeria.”
Oil firms owing FG $2bn — House c’ttee
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee probing all oil prospecting licences, OPLs, and Oil Mining Leases, OMLs, granted by the Federal Government, yesterday, said oil companies had deliberately avoided to pay compulsory fees to the tune of about $2 billion.
Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Gideon Gwani (PDP, Kaduna), who briefed newsmen, said the oil companies, which ought to help the country in view of its present predicament by prompt payment, were owing the government hundreds of millions of dollars, thus compounding the nation’s woes.
He described the situation as alarming and worrisome, noting that it was a dangerous trend that cannot be allowed to continue.
He said: “It is estimated that the oil companies, by their actions, have either evaded or avoided the payment of these compulsory fees which is presumed to have denied the Federal Government about $2 billion.
“At a time the government is talking of obtaining loans for infrastructure development, such as roads, railways, power plants, petroleum refineries, among others, and where oil blocs have been allocated to some companies to use the proceeds accruing from loyalties, signature bonuses, etc, to fund these important projects, yet several years after, these facilities are still comatose, with little or no new projects to show as approved.”
He expressed unhappiness that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, have not responded to requests of the committees.
Economic impact of attacks
Nigeria, which is hoping to fund its 2016 national budget in excess of N6 trillion benchmarked at $38/barrel, from mostly borrowings, will be hard put repaying the loans, as the production cutbacks will significantly affect building both the foreign exchange and production reserves.
Painting a gloomy picture of the situation, a former Director of industry regulatory agency, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Mr. Osten Olorunsola, noted that the situation was so serious that it required both urgent military and political interventions.
Olorunsola told Vanguard on phone: “If the situation is not resolved quickly, it portends grave consequences for petroleum industry and the economy in general, so it requires both political and military solutions.
“Attacks on oil facilities are a major setback because each time this happened, apart from the production disruptions, it takes time, about two to three years, for people to remobilise. As a result, oil and gas production nose-dives, there will be no development in the region during the period of the downturn, and if there are no production activities, there will be no building of oil reserves.”
Uduaghan urges FG to engage militants
Also, former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, urged the Federal Government to initiate a “serious engagement process” with the militant group to end the bombings in the region.
Uduaghan told Vanguard: “I am disturbed by the damage, which the explosions are causing to the environment. We live here, it is affecting us and I also appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers to stop the attacks.”
He said the Federal Government should review all the past decisions and templates for the development of the region and take a holistic decision to tackle development of the region to stem continuous resort to violence by militants.