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Nigerian Military Launches New Operation to Curb Record Levels of Crude Oil Theft in Niger Delta

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By Derrick Bangura

As the battle against crude oil theft, a development that has resulted to severe revenue to the country as well as its inability to meet its production quota, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Thursday disclosed that it had launched a special operation code named ‘Operation Dakatar da Barawo’ in order to curb crude oil theft and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta region.
It also revealed that 30 illegal oil refineries had been demobilised in the region by the naval troops in the last two weeks.

This was just as the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mr. Mele Kyari, on Thursday expressed optimism that the country would return to normal crude oil production in the next two months, even as he stressed the need for collective action to address the unfortunate situation.
Speaking at a briefing in Abuja, the Director, Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj Gen Benard Onyeuko, said the new operation in the Niger Delta region was aimed at reinvigorating the already existing operation Delta Safe, with a view to containing economic saboteurs in the region.
Other objectives of the new operations include, “to secure critical maritime infrastructure, create enabling environment for the sustenance of desired level of hydrocarbon production, safe shipping and economic activities, and restore investor confidence in Nigeria’s Maritime domain, among others”.
He pointed out that troops of Operation Delta Safe had continued to dominate the zone and had conducted anti-crude oil theft and anti-illegal oil bunkering related operations at different locations.
He listed the locations to include Opuama Celestial, Lolomu Ruler in Warri North Local Government Area, Obodo water-ways in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.

Other locations are: Egbeda, Ibaa, Oduoha, Rumekpe in Emohua Local Government Area, Elele; Ikwere Local Government Area of River State and Brass Creek in Ozobo community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
“Accordingly, troops discovered and destroyed 30 illegal refining sites, 37 reservoirs, 31 ovens, 12 large wooden boats, two cooling systems, three receivers, three storage pits and a metal drums.

“Cumulatively, troops within the period under review recovered 12,150,000 liters of illegal refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) 4,000 liters of stolen crude oil, three tankers, three vehicles, 73 galvanised pipes, two motorcycles, one bus, one Toyota Camry, Mercedes Benz car,” he revealed.

Kyari Foresees Return to Normal Oil Production in Two Months

Meanwhile, Kyari, while addressing members of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Upstream investigating reasons why Nigeria had not been able to meet its production quota, said the federal government was not only working on recovery of its production quota, but its sustainability as well.

He explained that the scale of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism seen in the host communities was beyond explanation, and has rendered the oil and gas industry unworkable.
The GMD while describing vandalism as an elitist business, lamented
that nefarious activities were forcing production shutdown.

Kyari said, “Yes, we have not gotten back production, but today, with activities that are going on, we promise that within the next one or two months, we will restore some level of normalcy. What is going on has nothing to do with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“It is purely activities of thieves, act of vandals which has rendered the industry unworkable and taken us to the level where today, our production is around 1.49 million barrel.

“What this did also as you may be aware is that the diesel that you see until last week, when we clamped down on some of these illegal refineries were actually coming from these illegal refineries. Until last three weeks ago, most of the diesel that you used in your homes are coming from these refineries and that why when we took them out, we cut off the line of supply by stopping the movement, that’s when you heard that AGO got to N900 per litre.

“That’s not the market price for AGO. Then obviously, once supply becomes constrained, prices will go up and we are happy that NNPC’s intervention has brought down the price of diesel to normal market price and we are happy to do.

“Why people bought it was because it was cheaper when it was being sold in the market. We are happy that this intervention is working and hopefully in the one or two months, we will bring sanity back. The act of vandals and thieves has gotten to a level where we had to shut down the pipeline and declare force majuro on it.

“Also the FXTL pipeline. So, as we speak now, there is no production going on there because we can no longer sustain the operation. This is not because we don’t go back to replace pipeline that are damaged. But as we do, we have repeated insertions on these pipeline. It got to a point that when we inject 239,000 barrel per day, we only receive 3,000 barrel per day. There was simply no business for anyone to continue to produce. When you loss about 200,000 barrels per day, even at an average price of $65 per barrel, we lost close to $1 billion between January and March.

“From January till date, we lost an average of 250,000 barrel per day and at the current price of about $100 to the barrel, even within this short period, we have lost close to $1.5 billion.”
He further revealed: “In January 2021, we were producing 239,000 barrel from the line linking Bonny Terminal and we only received 190,000 barrel meaning that we lost about 19,000 barrel to thieves then per day. This situation deteriorated to the extent that by March 7, 2022, it came to zero and so, we shut down the line and declared force Majeure.

“Even on our most reliable pipeline, which is the Forcados pipeline, we still loss about 7,000 barrel per day. Needless to say that these are all coming as a result of act of vandals and oil thieves. So many interventions have taken place and we have continued to remove the insertions. To put it in context, within a distance of less than 20 kilometers, we removed 85 insertions. So, you can imagine when you are running a pipeline of about 300 to 400 kilometers.”

Kyari called for establishment of a special and independent court for speedy prosecution oil thieves.
He warned that without speedy prosecution and conviction of the criminals, it would have an impact on the country’s economic outlook and its ability to generate foreign exchange.

He said: “The number of arrests made by the JTF, even vessel operators have made some arrests and also the Nigerian Navy in the last two weeks. Even more arrests have been made. Many of these illegal refineries are being taken down and also the insertions are being constantly removed and we believe that these interventions will pay off.

“And we will able to restore production. And this is centrally coordinated. There is a coordinated action now because we are using a number of strategies including community-based security outfits.
“No doubts it is a very difficult time and that’s why despite the good intentions of the PIA, no one will produce oil, recover zero and put money back into the business. And that’s why investments are very weak despite the good environment that the PIA has brought. All we need to do is to increase the advocacy so that the legal process takes its cause and prosecutions are done timely.

“I will recommend that we set up a special court for this. Such cases will be speedily dealt with, so that it is not just the ordinary ‘small’ people that you see at those locations that are prosecuted. We know that to sell crude oil in the international market, it is not the business of the ordinary people that you see in these illegal refineries; it is an elitist business and we must have the courage to set up very independent special courts to try cases related to this.
“Otherwise, the impact it has on our economic outlook – our ability to generate foreign exchange and in terms of energy security for this country – is threatened by a very few people.”

Speaking further, the GMD reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that the NNPC should strengthen its collaboration with security agencies and other stakeholders to tackle oil theft and illegal refineries in Nigeria. “We are not helpless. Yes, it’s a very daunting situation, no doubts, Mr. President in his wisdom directed the Chief of Defence Staff to lead a war, clearly it is a way to contain this situation and bring it to the barest minimum. So much is going on needless to say and I can share with you.
“There is a massive activity going on by some government security agencies in collaboration with the industry, NNPC, two regulatory institutions and the Nigerian Army, Navy and Airforce and DSS with the collaboration of another agencies including NIMASA and others.

“They are all working together to contain this situation. Every agency of government is involved now. The DSS, EFCC to trace and track the movement of funds, NFIU to also trace movement of funds from all levels and we believe that this will pay off and ultimately, we will contain this situation,” he added

Urges Collective Action against Oil Thieves

In a related development, Kyari in his goodwill message at the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), 5th Quadrennial Delegates’ Conference with the theme, “Just Energy Transition: For Oil and Gas Workers Social Welfare and Security,” in Asaba, on Thursday, called for urgent collaborative effort of all stakeholders to stem the tide of oil theft.

He said the NNPC would continue to partner NUPENG to sustain the production of oil and gas, adding that the sector would remain relevant at all times irrespective of emerging transitions in the energy sector.

According to him, though global energy transition was going on, oil would still be available and in high demand till year 2050 and beyond.

Kyari said: “Locally, our industry is seriously being challenged. We have seen vandalism around our areas of operation not just in the Niger Delta but across the various corridors of our product supply.
“The activities oil thieves that have got to limit that we haven’t seen before, almost bringing this industry to its knees today. “

The NNPC GMD noted that with the current dismally low levels of production, every stakeholder must join hands to fight to sustain the industry to enable it survive for all.

On his part, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who was represented by the Secretary to State Government (SSG) Chief Patrick Ukah, while declaring the event open, noted that NUPENG remains a critical and respected trade union in the oil and gas industry, urging the union leadership to always forget harmonious working relation with the management cadre in the oil and gas industry in order to stave off needless friction.

The governor stressed the need for all the workers to be abreast of the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act in the overall interest of the nation.
Also, The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, vowed that labour union would continue to engage the political class to ensure improved welfare for workers.

He said that the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was not unpatriotic, even as he urged the federal government to get back to the negotiation table with a view to addressing the long-standing demands of the university teachers.
He also described casualisation of workers as evil and tantamount to slavery that must be resisted by workers.
Also speaking, the Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu, noted that the petroleum sector plays a key role in the country’s economy and called for diversification from oil to agriculture to address the economic and social crises from the oil and gas industry.

He said only a formidable workforce with good welfare could rebuild the failing economy and address all the the challenges in the various sectors including the oil and gas industry.

The Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, represented by the Delta State Controller of Works, Mrs. Eucharia Ozurumba, lauded NUPENG for its welfare activities but charged the union to sustain struggles for welfare of workers and the fight against casualisation.

Earlier in his welcome address, Prince Williams Akporeha, President of NUPENG, said the union would sustain fight against casualisation of oil workers even as he lamented other worrisome aspects of the national life including insecurity.

Business

Nigeria Customs modernisation project to check extortion of traders

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The Trade Modernisation Project (TMP) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), will check the extortion of traders by facilitating the comprehensive tracking of their goods from the beginning of the trade process until delivery.

This is through its Unified Customs Management System(UCMS), a software that would be deployed to monitor all stages of the transactions by traders.

The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the TMP is the automation of the business processes of the NCS, to simplify and enhance the experience of stakeholders in the trade value chain.

It is also aimed at making it easy to obtain export and import clearances, and in paying duties and obtaining release of goods.

NAN further reports that the customs modernisation project, which has three phases, is a 20-year concession agreement.

It was signed on May 27, 2023, between the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the NCS Board, and The Trade Modernisation Project Ltd.

Chief Superintendent of Customs, Usman Abba, Head, Business Analyst for the project, told NAN in an interview on Thursday in Abuja that by using the software traders would be able to know when and where there were hitches in their transactions for redress.

Abba said the system would eliminate fraudulent intent and expose those who take advantage of clients who cannot properly track their goods with the current system to extort them.

“This is the platform where the trader has access and is able to track all the stages of transactions and know where the challenge or exactly the issue is until the goods are delivered,“ he said.

He said that the service had received numerous reports of agents attempting to extract additional funds from their clients, by falsely claiming that their goods had not been cleared by customs when the process had already been completed.

According to him, the software, which will soon be inaugurated, is designed to have information on all transactions, including payments and goods clearance, to enable the trader to act as required.

He added that other agencies were also being integrated into the system to examine goods according to their constitutional mandates

On the current stage of the development of the software, Abba said that all internal systems had been completed, and final touches were being done on stakeholder integration.

NAN reports that the TMP is targeting to generate more than 250 billion Dollars in revenue over the 20-year concession.

The project is aimed at bringing Nigeria to par with the rest of the world in the deployment of technology to facilitate international trade.

It would also assist the Federal Government in achieving economic diversification by facilitating easier cross-border trading.

(NAN)

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SMEDAN introduces business pitch competition to enhance financial literacy

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SMEDAN introduces business pitch competition to enhance financial literacy

SMEDAN introduces business pitch competition to enhance financial literacy

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), has introduced a business pitch competition known as “SMEDAN Speed Pitch”.

The Director-General of SMEDAN, Charles Odii, in a statement, said the initiative was designed to enhance financial literacy and provide small businesses with opportunities to access funds for growth.

Odii said the participants would receive training and support to develop and clearly articulate unique business innovations, viability, and potential to unlock opportunities.

According to him, this will include private investments in the country and across the globe.

He said: “The first edition of the pitch competition will take place on May 1, at the Eko Convention Center in Lagos as part of the Nano Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (NMSME) Engagement Series.

“It will be hosted by Ms Jennifer Adighije, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Entrepreneurship and Innovation/Digital Economy.

“This initiative is part of SMEDAN’s ‘GROW Nigerian’ strategy, which focuses on boosting local production.

“It does this by providing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with financial and non-financial resources, including markets, knowledge, mentorship, and tools, to grow sustainably and spread prosperity.’’

Odii said to participate in the first edition, businesses must be female-owned, registered, and in operation for at least three years.

He said: “Applications will open on April 24 and close on April 27.

“Shortlisted applicants will undergo a test to determine the top five performers who will get the chance to present their pitch at the main event in Lagos.

“The winner will receive a prize of one million naira for workforce support, procurement of work tools, and business expansion.

“ Runners-up will receive 300,000 and 200,000 respectively, along with free Business Development support.”

On how to apply, the Director-General urged applicants to upload a three-minute video pitch to social media.

Odii said: “Introduce yourself in the video and showcase your product/service and the problem it solves, and make a case for why you should be enlisted.

“Follow and Tag SMEDAN’s official pages (@smedaninfo, use the hashtag #SMEDANSpeedPitch), and remember that the application deadline is April 27.

“For pitch criteria, you must possess a clear vision and concept, understanding of the target audience, unique selling proposition (USP), short-term and long-term goals and utilisation of the prize (money).

“The judging criteria will include, clarity, market potential, innovation and differentiation and presentation skills.”

(NAN)

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We generated N30.2 bn revenue in three months – Kano NCS Comptroller

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Nigeria Customs Service deepens ties with Benin Republic to facilitate trade

We generated N30.2 bn revenue in three months – Kano NCS Comptroller

The Kano Area command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), says it generated N30.2 billion in revenue between January and March 2024.

The Area Comptroller, Mr Dauda Chana, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Kano.

NAN reports that the Kano area command covers Kano State and Jigawa.

Chana said there was a significant increase in the revenue generation profile of the command when compared to the same period in 2023 when N9.5 billion was realised within the same period.

The comptroller said already the area command has introduced more sensitive security measures to prevent all forms of smuggling in the area.

“We have already positioned our officers at strategic locations to deal decisively with all those involved in the illegal smuggling of materials.

“The area command has deployed officers at border posts in Maigatari, Gumel Local Government Area, Jigawa, to intensify efforts at mitigating activities of smugglers.

Read Also: Kano NCS generated N6.9bn in November – Comptroller

“The same applied to officers at the Jeke outpost in Babura Local Government Area of Jigawa.

“We are battle-ready to end smuggling through our various strategies to pave the way for arrest and prosecution of those involved in illegal businesses,” he said.

Chana appealed to traditional rulers and stakeholders, especially those in border areas, for their support and sensitisation of their residents on the negative effects of smuggling on the nation’s economy.

“We have also reached out to youths in the border communities, to assist our field officers with required intelligence that will assist in curbing all forms of smuggling activities.

“The command’s area of coverage is a no-go area for smugglers as officers have been stationed at identified illegal smuggling routes to ensure arrests and prosecution of offenders,’’ Chana said.

The area commander, however, solicited the support of stakeholders in encouraging residents to shun smuggling and embrace the export of locally produced goods.

(NAN)

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