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Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2020

Oil Bunkering Activities In Niger Delta Region: Whose Fault?

By Young Erhiurhobo
LAGOS JANUARY 23RD (URHOBOTODAY)-The above subject is timely as the menace of oil bunkering activities has become unbearable for the people of the Niger-Delta region and uncontrollable by the federal government of Nigeria in recent times. Without missing words, the discovery of oil in the Niger-Delta region is more or less a curse to the indigenes of the region rather than a blessing. It’s an indisputable fact in the history of Nigeria that for the past four decades, our economy is one hundred percent depended on oil for sustainability and growth.
Without doubt, since 1958 when oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, in Rivers state by the foremost Dutch oil company by Shell BP, billions of dollars have been generated into the coffers of the federal government with little or nothing to show for it by the oil bearing communities that are suffering the pains and agonies of the oil exploration. Since the 70s, this oppressive attitude of the federal government led to the formation of different protest groups across the entire Niger-Delta region; demanding for their share of the proceeds from the oil exploration as they were being regarded as the goose that lays the golden eggs. In return, the federal government responded to the demands of the Niger-Delta people by first establishing OMPADEC and later NDDC as interventionist agencies to cater for the needs of the people and the development of the region.
Unfortunately, today those interventionist agencies especially the NDDC has turned to be a political agency that some of the Niger-Delta politicians are using to achieve their political dreams. The core objectives and mandate of the NDDC can be said to have been dead since its establishment in 2000. Without being told, this is one of the reasons why the Niger-Delta youths who were very much vibrant in the protests and agitations for the development of the region turned to seep in their share of this black gold through an exploration process later described and defined as illegal by the federal government. This process is known as, “Oil bunkering”.
Oil bunkering as an exploration process is done through vandalizing of oil pipelines and oil flow stations. This business has turned some of our youths into billionaires in recent times. Though no right-thinking person will support this oil bunkering business for its negative effects to the people and our land but the federal government must equally be blamed for this illegal oil business thriving and booming in the area. Truly, oil bunkering has many negative effects on the indigenes and their lands. First, it has led to oil spillage which in many cases again led to fire disaster. Secondly, it has affected agricultural activities like farming and fishing as a result of the oil spillage on farmlands and rivers. The worst effect of this oil bunkering business is the death of young and old people in the various oil bearing communities where such businesses are being done. The death of these people are caused as result of fire outbreak, water and air pollution, disease outbreak etc.
Coming back to the question of who is to blame in this social menace, I must equivocally say that, the federal government is to blame on the issue of oil bunkering in the Niger-Delta region. My reasons are not far-fetched. First, the government refusal to attend to the needs and pains of the different oil bearing communities across the region pushed some of the leaders and the youths into this illegal business. From the look of things, the NDDC is almost at the verge of failure as what happened to the defunct OMPADEC is today happening to it. Both the board and the management team of the NDDC are today going there with the mind to embezzle rather than to use the budgeted fund for the development of the people and the area. Since the establishment of the NDDC, it’s reported that over 600 billion naira has been released to it through the National Budget. Out of this said amount, over 400 billion naira is embezzled by its management team and the government.
Secondly, the youths are today trooping into this business because the federal government has again failed in its duties to provide employment opportunities for our teeming graduates from the area. Our higher institutions are turning out thousands of graduates every academic year without any capable employment platform to absorb them on graduation. Therefore, they always grab with ease when such means are provided to make quick money.
The third reason why the federal government must be blamed for this oil bunkering is that, there is a weak security network in the entire Niger-Delta region. The security of lives and properties is also the duty of the federal government. Again, the federal government has woefully failed in this regard.
For instance, the recurring menace of Fulani herdsmen, terrorizing farmers and their farmlands in the region. Since this issue began some years ago, the federal government is sleeping on its oars without doing anything tangible to arrest the ugly situation once and for all. This has given some of these people the freedom to ventured into this oil bunkering business since the federal government is supporting terrorist groups to eliminate them and their farming activities.
Still on the poor security network, pipeline surveillance and other security agents constituted by the federal government to secure oil facilities in the Niger-Delta region are taken over by corruption and they are dancing to the tune of these oil bunkers since they are being influenced by the power of money. Many of these security agents are joining hands or partenering with these people to make the business thrive in those places. It’s not strange to hear that many of these illegal refineries sited in different communities across the Niger-Delta region are owned by top military officers; even many of them are from the North. How can the fish be safe when you give it to the cat and the rat to keep?
However, I want to conclude this short piece by strongly appealing to the federal government to look inwardly into the points raised in this discourse to attend to them as soon as possible. The issue of oil bunkering is already developing strong tap roots in the Niger-Delta region as many of our youths are trooping into it. Many of them look at the business as a lucrative one and an avenue to make quick money. This is why it’s very difficult for those security agents to completely remove the business from the land. Our youths have perceived the aroma of the oil and they boldly went ahead to have a taste of it. Indeed, the taste was ludicrous and therefore hard to quit. But the only solution to oil bunkering is for the federal government to do the needful now.

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