By LOUIS IBA
Managing Director, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Haruna Momoh, says the quest to ensure efficient and uninterrupted supply of petroleum products in Nigeria has been severely hampered by a set of people, who specialize in the vandalisation of pipelines conveying both raw crude oil, as well as refined petroleum products across the country.
Momoh said it is vandalisation that has forced the PPMC to resort to ferrying products through trucks, rather than the conventional mode of moving them via underground pipes, which he described as more convenient, cheaper, safer and faster way of reaching end-users in a country as vast as Nigeria.
Momoh said in the last four years, the nation had lost an estimated N165 billion from the various acts of vandalisation of these pipelines in terms of the cost on the products stolen from these vandalized spots, as well as the amount re-invested in fixing the vandalized pipes.
But perhaps the greatest havoc or tragedy of this act, Momoh said, was on the human lives lost on those locations, which can never be replaced.
“We have lost some of our staff working on these locations; some of them were trying to repair vandalized pipes and were attacked and killed, and even buried in secret graves by these vandals,” Momoh lamented.
“And then we also have cases where people who live in these communities also die from fire outbreaks, and their environment and property also destroyed as a result of the vandalisation of petroleum pipelines. Now, how do we replace these types of loses? It is a tragedy we must all work together to get rid of,” Momoh added.
The PPMC is a subsidiary of the NNPC, and it does not only manage the petroleum pipelines and depots for the Nigerian government, but also handles the petroleum products importation and distribution.
Momoh spoke on on-going efforts to boost safety practices and reposition the firm to serve customers better.
The havoc caused by vandalisation
On distribution, we have always had challenges because of the rate at which our pipelines are being vandalized. Practically in all our pipeline network, we are having cases of vandalisation on a daily bases. There is no place where our pipeline runs that we are not witnessing cases of people who get these lines vandalized. And this has constituted a very big problem to us such that we have come out to say that if the people who vandalise of pipelines will allow us to work, we are positioned to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to Nigerians all through the year.
It is the constant vandalisation of our pipelines that has forced us to resort to the use of trucks to carry fuel from one location to the other. Fuel is being trucked from Lagos to other parts of the country daily, and this comes with a lot of challenges.
But again, we need to re-instate the fact that looking at the economics of scale, the cheapest, the easiest and the quickest means of distributing petroleum products in a country as large as Nigeria, with a population of about 160 million, is through the pipelines, and not by using trucks as we are currently doing. Unfortunately, as at today, the vandals have pushed us into a situation where the only way we are moving petroleum products is through trucks. Trucking comes with its own challenges in terms of the pace and timely delivery to retail outlets. And then there is the congestion at the ports and on the roads. And that is why, in some cases and in some parts of the country, we are still experiencing distribution challenges. It takes longer hours to get a truck to move a product from Lagos to a northern state.
These vandals have so much disrupted our operations. Let us take a look at the situation in Lagos where the System 2B pipeline has been vandalized consistently. The system 2B runs all the way from Atlas Cove to Satellite Town all in Lagos up all the way to Mosimi, Ore, Ibadan and Ilorin. It is the major pipe that takes from out of Lagos to other states and the original intention of that we pump out products to these other depots and from there people can come and get them with their trucks. And that way the crowd that comes to Lagos with trucks is eliminated. We need to take note that about 60 to 70 per cent of the petroleum products imported into the country come into the country from the System 2B pipeline network or axis. But that idea cannot function because this pipe is constantly being vandalized. We cannot operate that system any longer. And so there is a big problem of distribution.
The System 2B whenever it is vandalized, it has dire consequences on the effort to distribute products, especially to consumers in the western part of the country.
Between 2009 and the end of 2012 we lost N165 billion not only to product theft but also to crude oil theft as a result of the vandalisation of pipes carrying these products and the cost of the repair. But how about the number of hours spent by Nigerians queuing to get fuel whenever scarcity results because of the vandalisation of these pipes? How about in cases where lives are lost, not only the lives of the vandals, but innocent members of the host communities where these pipes are being tempered with? How about the lives of our staff that we have lost?
In Arepo, for example, they killed two of our managers who had gone there to effect a repair of the vandalized pipes. And in 2012 you are aware of the incident where three of our staff including our manager who had gone to fix a destroyed pipe were killed and buried in an unknown grave by these vandals. And it took the combined effort of the security and pleadings from our own side for these people to agree to show us where these staff were buried for us to go and exhume them and hand them over to their families for proper burial. I am calling on all Nigerians to come together and assist fight this menace because it has assumed a dimension that bothers on national security as far as energy supply is concerned.
Product availability not an issue
Let me say that the availability of products is not an issue for us. We have enough products to go round. In fact as directed by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, we have right now the 30 days national stock of reserve in our system. We have worked hard to ensure that Nigerians have access to uninterrupted supply of petroleum products and I think that has been very evident for all to see.
So there is no need for panic among consumers as availability of products was guaranteed with the massive reserves in the system. But if I may go back to what I said much earlier, we have been severely hampered by fire incidences on our key infrastructure as well as an increased rate of vandalisation over the past two years.
About 76 fire incidences had been recorded in the past two years, the bulk traceable to acts of vandalisation of our key facilities.
Between 2010 and 2012 we recorded 76 fire incidents and over 97 per cent of these fires were the results of the nefarious activities of vandals along our pipeline right-of-way, a typical example being the recurring decimal of Arepo, and the challenges of containment and control of these fire incidents by our in-house firefighting system is tasking.
The fire incidences and vandalisation had greatly hampered the distribution of fuel to consumers and that until such a time when these acts are stopped the supply of uninterrupted fuel would remain a mirage.
If the people who vandalise our facilities will allow us to work, we are better positioned to supply fuel to all without any hitches.
The problem we are having now is moving products through trucks to end-users because the pipelines are not working having been vandalized. The best and most efficient way to take products is through the pipelines and not trucking, and that remains a big challenge to us.
And I want to assure that the PPMC is building a robust emergency response capability to minimize the impact of fire incidents that may occur in its operations.
As at now, we have a fleet of 49 firefighting trucks, out of which six were acquired between 2008 and 2010.
Vandals are currently being prosecuted
Let me say that with the support of security institutions we have commenced the prosecution of some of those caught vandalizing oil pipelines in the country. Prosecution is ongoing in some cases. I am aware of that, especially on those who vandalized the system 2B line. But the truth is that there is a lacuna in the law in as far as prosecution is concerned because of the issue of jurisdiction in the court either in the magistrate court or the federal high court.
But we are right now also talking to some members of the National Assembly on that issue and I want to believe that between now and the end of June we should come up with a solution to that particular problem.
Kaduna refinery now pumping out products
I also want to state that the pumping of refined petroleum products has commenced from the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Plant to the depots in the northern part of the country. As at now the refinery is supply products to the Kano, Minna, Gusau and Suleja depots to ease the plight of consumers in the northern part of the country.
A fifth depot located in Gombe, would soon be fed with products after the completion of repairs on the pipelines linking it with the Kaduna Refinery.
The 110,000 barrels per day Kaduna refinery which was commissioned in 1980 specifically to meet the market demand of the northern market was recently resuscitated after years of neglect had forced the plant to operate at less than half its capacity.