Apparently tired of trading blames with state governments over who to blame for the incessant pipelines vandalism and attendant economic losses, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has accused security operatives detailed to monitor these pipelines of collusion with the vandals.
The accusation followed Wednesday fire outbreak on the now famous hotspot for vandalism, Systems 2B pipeline, which supplies refined petroleum products to states in Western Nigerian from Lagos up to Ilorin.
Equally accused were traditional rulers of the pipeline host communities, who were also conscripted into the monitoring programme.
Several calls to and text message to NNPC's newly appointed spokesperson, Ms Tumini Green, as usual, were not responded to.
However, a senior official of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Corporation and operators of the pipelines, told Vanguard in confidence that the more challenging is the fact that the appointed monitors have also become the worse vandals.
"In the past, we have involved security agencies, members of the various communities, community leaders -- obas, bales and chiefs, in policing of the pipelines at Arepo, yet there is no improvement," the source told Vanguard on the telephone.
He added that "In most of the cases, these community leaders and security agencies become vandals themselves, making the situation worse than it was before. They later join in the vandalism of the pipelines, becoming worse than the vandals we were pursuing."
Cat and mouse game
In the recent times, it had become a war of words between the NNPC and some state governments who argued that because of the huge costs involved in the repair of the damaged pipelines, the NNPC would prefer not to take adequate measures to protect its own facilities.
Indeed, the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the oil and gas industry regulator, which described Arepo as "big business," also accused both the NNPC and security operatives of lack of commitment in checking the menace of pipeline vandalism.
But the PPMC source insisted that effectively tackling the incidence of pipeline vandalism has gone beyond the control of the NNPC, because the Corporation had put in place a number of measures, including ensuring constant policing of the pipeline, which have yielded little results.
When Vanguard challenged the then Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petiri, on the issue of collusion by security operatives at a joint meeting with industry operators summoned by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, last year, he had retorted, "Give me proof and see whether we will not sanction such officers."
Petiri had insisted that the accusations were merely wide allegations, which no one has been able to prove, while challenging the public to proof him wrong.
The joint meeting on pipeline security has largely not yielded any results, as vandals have continued to sabotage pipelines carrying both refined petroleum products and crude to various destinations around the country.
The PPMC estimated that about the economy had lost about $1.03billion or N165billion between 2009 and 2012 to pipeline vandalism, which our source noted is a reflection of the security situation in Nigeria.
While calling on the federal government to intervene quickly in addressing the situation so as to save the country from further embarrassment, the source also confirmed that the PPMC had deployed a team of firefighters to put out the fire.
"The fire is now under control, and our maintenance crew has also been deployed to the area to fix the vandalised pipeline, so as to restore the supply of petroleum products across the country," he added.