The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said that there is relative stability in crude oil production in the Niger Delta region despite resumption of hostilities by the militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
Following MEND's recent threat to resume attacks on oil and gas facilities across the oil-bearing region, NNPC stated Monday in Abuja that it had not received any report of decline in crude oil production from its exploration and production (E&P) division, thus suggesting that average production could still be hovering at over 2 million barrels per day (bpd).
The corporation's General Manager, Media Relations, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, who confirmed this to THISDAY, said: "We have no report of disruption or decline in crude oil production from our upstream department, which is the E&P division, at least, as at now."
Although NNPC did not provide information on the country's current crude oil output, data obtained from the March 2013 edition of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) indicated that Nigeria's production fell marginally.
The MOMR data from secondary sources and direct communication placed the country's crude oil production at 1.971mbp and 1.852mbpd respectively for the month of March.
A section of the report stated: "Total OPEC crude oil production averaged 30.19 million bpd in March, according to secondary sources, a decrease of 100,000 barrels from last month. Crude oil output decreased from Nigeria and Iran."
In a related development, the Joint Task Force's (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield, which is responsible for the security of the Niger Delta region, has said it is winning the war against crude oil theft and other forms of criminality in the area.
This was stated Monday by the Media Coordinator, Operation Pulo Shied, Lt. Col Onyema Nwachukwu, who told THISDAY that JTF's position was not based on "insinuations and hearsays but on facts and figures."
"This you will find in the revelation of the myriad of interceptions and arrests that we have made over time," Nwachukwu said.
He insisted that enormous efforts had been invested by the JTF towards combating illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and effectively protecting oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta, including the reconnaissance of Shell and NNPC pipelines conducted early in 2011.
He revealed that aerial over-flights and ground patrols of the pipeline network are regularly conducted to deter vandals from sabotaging the pipelines.
"This has enabled the regular pumping of products by NNPC from the Port Harcourt refinery to Aba Depot. Similarly, most critical oil platforms have troops deployed to them 24 hours per day, seven days a week to enhance protection," he said.
The JTF spokesman explained that the proactive measures and efforts resulted in the lowering of total deferred production of crude oil from about 9.5 million barrels in January 2011 to about 1.5 million barrels in November 2011.
Giving some details of its activities in the last three years, he revealed that in 2012, JTF conducted 7,585 anti-illegal bunkering patrols; a total of 18 vessels and 1,945 suspects were arrested, while 4,349 illegal crude oil distilleries were destroyed.
"We also scuttled 133 barges, 1,215 open wooden boats (Cotonu boats), 187 oil theft tanker trucks, 178 illegally distilled fuel dumps as well as 5,574 surface tanks.
"In addition, 36,504 drums of distilled petroleum products, 638 pumping machines and 326 outboard engines were seized and scuttled," he said.
Nwachukwu further disclosed that in the first four months of 2013, success was recorded against oil bandits and security strengthened to increase crude oil production.
He noted that over-flights, waterway and ground patrols have been intensified and carried out, particularly in the areas identified for the notoriety of oil theft.
He said: "Patrols on the waterways have intensified and between January and February 2013, 452 illegal refineries were located and scuttled, while eight vessels, nine barges, 90 wooden boats, all caught for illegal oil bunkering were intercepted in Opobo River, Bonny Local Government Area of Rivers State; Tomkiri in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State; and Ogbokodo creek and Ugbokolo areas of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
"One hundred and seventy five suspects were also arrested during these operations. The challenge we face with these suspects however is that we do not have the prosecutorial power, hence we hand them over to the prosecuting security agencies."
He also highlighted some of JTF's challenges to include the weak laws through which arrested criminals are freed, thus frustrating their efforts.