ILLEGAL OIL BUNKERING, THE CONFLICTS AND THE EFFECTS ON THE REGION NIGER DELTA

ILLEGAL OIL BUNKERING, THE CONFLICTS AND THE EFFECTS ON THE REGION NIGER DELTA

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1   BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Oil exploration started in Nigeria in 1908 at Araromi in Ondo State. The first explorer company called ―The Nigeria Bitumen Cooperation‖ was the first company licensed to explore oil. During this time drilling was not successful by as the oil exploration was halted on the outbreak of First World War in 1914. In 1937, Thirty one (31) years after licence was granted to Darchy and Anglo-Dutch Consortium, now Shell Petroleum Development Company (SDPC) for oil exploration. However, like their predecessor they were terminated by the outbreak of World War II in 193. Activities commences after the World war in 1946, which led to a successful drilling for exploration of oil on August 3rd, 1956 in Olobiri. The first shipment took place in February 1958 when production was about 5,000 barrel per day (Judith, 2009).

Since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Olobiri area in 1958, Nigeria became an oil producing and exporting country, thereby becoming the six largest producer of crude oil in the world. However, the blessing of the discoveries seemed to have turned out to be a plague on Nigerians generally. The people of the Niger Delta region has suffered tremendously thereby knowing no peace from environmental degradation, economic poverty, starvation, inter community conflict, above all is illegal oil bunkering which has become synonymous with the region.

The act of stealing oil is known as ―bunkering,‖ a term originally used to describe the process of filling a tanker with oil. Illegal oil bunkering thrives in a climate of instability,

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conflict, and political chaos. Nigeria offers the perfect operating environment. Nigeria, a large, densely populated, and highly heterogeneous country of approximately 160 million people, it is a complex mixture of people and religions, all of whom have competing claims on an inefficient and corrupt government. There are approximately 250 ethnic groups and the population is divided evenly between Christians and Muslims. The period since the restoration of democracy in 1999 has been characterized by unusually high levels of political violence centered on the Niger Delta, the heart of Nigeria‘s oil industry. The Niger Delta consists of six or nine oil producing states in southern Nigeria, depending on one‘s geopolitical definition. The core Niger Delta states are, from east to west, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta.

Oil bunkering is an operation involving the fuelling of ships of all kinds on the high seas, inland waterways and within the ports. What comes to mind whenever oil bunkering is mentioned in Nigeria are thoughts of illegal oil bunkering, oil theft and pipeline vandalising. Indeed, the line between crude oil theft and oil bunkering has become very blurred in the country due to a misunderstanding of what oil bunkering operations entail. This, according to experts, is largely connected to the proliferation of crude oil theft that is already denying the country huge revenues in trillions of dollars (Oketola, 2014).

Nigeria‘s oil industry is under producing in the present circumstance of oil bunkering and insecurity. Nigeria‘s maximum producing capacity is about 3.2 million barrels per day; however, current production is often half of that, even without OPEC quota limitations. Much of the country‘s production is disrupted or shut-in ‗the oil stays in the ground‘ because of security threats to oil facilities and their staff. The oil that is produced, a significant proportion is lost through pipeline vandalism, acts of sabotage, and theft. A well-known energy security analyst,

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David Goldwyn, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee‘s Subcommittee on African Affairs in September 2008, that if Nigeria was to produce oil at capacity, it would play a major role in helping to lower and stabilize world oil prices.

The enabling environment for illegal oil bunkering includes high levels of unemployed youth, armed ethnic militias, ineffective and corrupt law enforcement officials, protective government officials and politicians, corrupt oil company staff, established international markets for stolen oil, and the overall context of endemic corruption. The three types of illegal oil bunkering include small-scale pilfering for the local market, large-scale tapping of pipelines to fill large tankers for export, and excess lifting of crude oil beyond the licensed amount. The complexity of players in the illegal oil bunkering business, including local youth, members of the Nigerian military and political class, and foreign ship owners, makes it difficult to tackle the problem unilaterally (United States Institute of Peace, 2009). Nigeria is rated 121 out of 180 nations on Transparency International‘s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (Policy research, 2008).

According to a report made in 2008, President Yar‘Adua made a resolution of the Niger Delta conflict one of the key points of his 7 - point plan to reform Nigeria. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan is an Ijaw from Bayelsa State and former Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. The former Chief of Defence Staff, General Azazi is also an Ijaw from Bayelsa State. It was assumed that this combination would present a unique opportunity to command the respect of the Ijaw militants. After 12 months, the situation in the Niger Delta has continued to deteriorate and the calls for a fresh approach was growing daily in the Nigerian national print media.

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There were spontaneous protests and local conflicts in the Niger Delta (1970s) (Danler and Brunner 1996: 34). The protests became more extensive and better publicized with the foundation of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990, particularly because of its charismatic leader, Ken Saro‐Wiwa. Following the public presentation of the Ogoni Bill of Rights (adopted in 1990), in which MOSOP demanded more political autonomy and a more equitable distribution of the oil rents to the government, the first large mass demonstration took place in 1993. Although the Ogoni representatives‘ approach was generally peaceful, the protests gave rise to a wave of state repression against the Ogoni leaders and led to the detention of several hundreds of activists (Ibeanu and Mohammed 2005: 44) and the destruction of houses and villages, with numerous deaths as a result (Danler and Brunner 1996: 35).

In Niger Delta, education level is below the national average and is particularly among women. Statistics show that while 76% of Nigerian children attend primary school, this level drops to 30-40% in some parts of the Niger Delta. Unemployment rate in the region is reported to be 30% (Uyigue and Agho, 2007:20). This is because of the low skills syndrome leading to the unemployment of the people. Again, change in means of livelihood from natural sectors to non-natural sectors due to the degraded and devastated environment has equally affected the people adversely.

Maritime security is concerned with the prevention of international damage through sabotage, subversion, or terrorism. Due to the rapid growth of criminal activities and vandalism in the Middle belt region of the Niger Delta region, this study will help to educate the people of Nigeria on the top priority of militant bunkering and need for improvement of security in the

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region. Our aim in this work will be to critically and analytically examine the problem of crude oil security in the Niger Delta area and offer solution to its eradication to a minimal level.

1.2    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the South-southern part of the country known as the Niger Delta. This region is marked by deprivation and underdevelopment. Oil extraction is a capital rather than labour-intensive industry and, therefore, provides little employment. The region is further disadvantaged by the difficult geographical terrain which makes infrastructure costs higher, sources of conflict and the effects of environmental degradation, caused in part by the consequences of oil extraction - gas flaring, oil spills, oil bunkering etc. on traditional industries such as fishing and agriculture.

However, the poor management of oil and gas resources in this region coupled with pressures arising from environmental changes has undermined the livelihoods of women and the income they generate to sustain their families. As the resourcefulness of these women depends totally on the viability of their environment, a degraded environment is a challenge on their socio-economic status. As a result, the trends and developments underlining poverty and destitution affect women because of their socio-economic position in the society. This typically elucidates what could be referred to as ―the feminization of poverty‖ – a phenomenon which is more evident in the Niger Delta than elsewhere in the country as Amakwe (2007) puts it. Niger Delta marked by deprivation and underdevelopment in their state has resulted to the youth becoming restless in the region thereby leaving the country with unsatisfactory choices. This study is to examine how oil bunkering is being carried out, sources of conflict and its effects to the society.

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1.3         OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The central objective of this research are;

i.                   


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