Incessant oil theft: Niger Delta community sends SOS to Buhari, alleges military participation

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The people of Bille community in Rivers State have written an open letter to President Buhari requesting for his intervention in combating illegal oil bunkering along the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), which poses serious threats to lives and properties in Bille. The letter to the president was written by ‘Bille Youth Vanguard’, a group representing the community.

According to the Bille Youth Vanguard, the crime has continued unabated, despite the presence of a security base within the area.

“Every single day, oil bunkering and pipeline damage is happening in Bille.  Even though there are security officers in the area, this crime has increased more than ever before. Our community is normal in the day time but at night it will turn into a marketplace for crude oil, whereby oil is lifted openly like they are buying and selling in Aba market, yet we have a security base around there.”

The group also accused members of the security forces of being complicit in the ongoing incessant oil bunkering activities in the area.

“You will be shocked that armed men who are supposed to protect the pipeline have changed their job to protector of thieves. They are guiding the vessels of people destroying pipelines and loading crude oil. Sometimes, in broad day light, big vessels come in and out of BIlle freely surrounded by escorts. We have heard that security officials are making millions from protecting these criminals and participating in illegal bunkering. Some even fight for posting to Bille to make illegal money,” the letter reads.

The Bille Youth Vanguard then called on the president and the Chief of Army Staff to intervene, and stop the heinous activity, which is destroying the pipeline and devastating their land through attendant oil spill. They called on the Federal Government to send in fresh troops, as the current ones in the area are already compromised. They have also requested that the Head of Operation Delta Safe should be questioned immediately.

“Bille Youths have decided to support peace but the head of Operation Delta Safe, is putting our youths under pressure to join their stealing.  We want the Federal Government to send fresh army to save us. The security officers in the area can no longer protect us, they are the ones stealing now. Oil thieves are destroying the pipeline and oil spill is destroying our land.”

The Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) is a 97 kilometre, 150,000 barrels of oil per day pipeline situated in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. It passes through several Niger Delta communities before terminating on the Atlantic Coast

This not the first time this year that Bille and other communities within the pathway of the NCTL will cry out to the government to raise alarm over incessant oil bunkering activities along the pipeline. In a report published by Vanguard Newspaper on May 15, 2018, communities in the area expressed their concerns about the heinous activities been carried out by criminals in their area. A few days ago, Bony, Kula, Bille and Nembe communities wrote an open letter, published in the Newspaper. Representatives of the group, Mr Ebi George, and Preye Dumbraye complained that since the May 15 publication in the vanguard, illegal oil bunkering activities has increased tenfold.

Despite government efforts to stem the tides, illegal oil bunkering continues unabated in the Niger Delta. A November 21, 2013 report from the Stakeholder Democracy Network and published in the Premium Times says there is extensive evidence that some corrupt members of the Joint Task Force, JTF, actively participate and profit from oil theft and illegal oil refining.

Oil theft in the Niger Delta continues to cost the country a lot of money at a time where it is difficult to pay salaries and execute the budget. Due to leakages arising from oil theft, the NCTL has been shutdown 8 times in the past two years.

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