As Oil Thieves Bleed Nigeria, Report Says, Officials Profit
From The New York Times
by Adam Nossiter
DAKAR, Senegal — Oil is being stolen on an “industrial scale” in Nigeria, the world’s 13th largest producer, and the country’s politicians and security officials are among those profiting, according to a new report from a prominent British research group.
Thieves steal an estimated average of 100,000 barrels a day, the report said; working in elaborate networks and protected by corrupted security officials, they tap into the huge and isolated network of pipes that crisscross the country’s swampy southern Niger Delta region. The price of oil fluctuates, but a hypothetical per-barrel price of $100 would mean an annual loss of $3.65 billion. Oil closed at $107.28 per barrel on Thursday.
Much of this oil winds up being exported globally, said the report, which was released Thursday by the London-based organization Chatham House. The problem has reached such proportions that major oil companies operating in Nigeria have recently complained that theft is cutting significantly into production.
A similar report last year, commissioned by the Nigerian government but largely ignored, said that over the preceding decade, thieves had been stealing 6 percent to 30 percent of the country’s daily production. “Hydrocarbon theft is a major source of loss of revenue to the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” said that report, prepared by the country’s former top anticorruption official, Nuhu Ribadu. It described the problem then as an “emergency.”
The full extent of the country’s larcenous ingenuity is on display in the oil thievery. There is “theft from tank farms, refinery storage tanks, jetties and ports,” according to the Nigerian report. “Officials and private actors disguise theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents.”
Small-scale pipeline tapping operations can easily be detected in short daytime trips into the swamps from the Niger Delta’s population centers. Telltale plumes of smoke from illegal refining operations rise above the water.
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