Where do you hide $1.5B of 'stolen' oil?

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    NIGERIA — Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Limited, subsidiary of Shell Companies in Nigeria has disclosed that Nigeria loses about $1.5 billion yearly to crude oil theft and urged the government to urgently address the situation. 

    Mutiu Sunmonu, the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company made the disclosure while speaking at the CWC- organized Nigeria Oil and Gas conference and exhibition in Abuja last Tuesday.

    The revelation came just as the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said the thriving business of crude oil theft by rings of organized syndicates, now pose a threat to oil loadings from Nigeria’s export terminals. 

    “Even with low oil prices, the (Nigerian) government loses between $1 billion and $1.5 billion every year to crude theft,” Sunmonu told delegates to the conference in Abuja. 

    “Crude theft is a crime, we should not give excuse to people stealing crude in the name of resource control or agitations,” he said.Thieves masquerading under the guise of agitating for improved living conditions for communities in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, drill holes into oil manifolds and pipelines that crisscross the region, to siphon crude which is then loaded into barges transferred into ocean tankers on the high seas. 

    Sunmonu said that the act has reached a point where the lives of oil workers as well as the people in the Niger-Delta, are in danger. 

    He said the Nigerian government must begin to enforce law and order in the troubled region, as this would also ensure a conducive atmosphere to fast track development in the region. 

    Also speaking on the crisis in the region, NNPC spokesman, Levi Ajuonuma, said oil loadings at Nigeria’s terminals have come under threat by the activities of oil thieves. 

    “It is becoming impossible to load crude oil at the terminals…tankers are now attacked at will,” Ajuonuma told attendees at the conference. 

    “Nigeria is bleeding and the industry is losing heavily to crude oil theft,” he said. 

    “Foreign companies in oil and gas as well as construction sectors are threatening to pull out because of the criminality in the region,” he added. 

    A government official disclosed while speaking on the sideline of the conference that oil loadings at the terminals had been reduced to just six hours every day because of the security situation in the delta. 

    The official said with declining oil output and dropping prices, government may not be able to meet its funding obligations for the 2009 fiscal year. 

    Nigeria produces around two million b/d but officials said as much as 100,000 b/d are lost to theft. Proceeds from the sale of the stolen crude are used to procure arms with which militants unleash terror in the region, officials say. 

    Also speaking, Ledum Mitee, president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People said government has neglected the region for a long time. 

    “The people believe they are not the ones stealing the crude but the government that is taking the resources away from the land.”

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