Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, has blamed Nigeria’s economic woes, including the free fall of the Naira value and high cost of living on unabated oil theft and assets vandalism.
Country Head, Corporate Relations, SPDC, Igo Weli, in interaction with the media in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said with heavy reliance on oil proceeds, even when oil prices were currently above a $100, Nigeria still struggles because of low output induced by crude oil theft, adding that with low output comes low income in foreign exchange.
He warned that unless urgent action was taken to halt the ceaseless oil theft, the nation was headed for a period when government would have to spend half of its budget cleaning up the mess resulting from crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products.
Igo said: “We can link most of the problems to the fact of these illegal activities going on. People are so bold and proud of it. Sometimes people call into radio programmes to hail them because they assume people who engage in bunkering are doing so because they are hungry and do not have jobs.
“That is not true. Equipment required to carry out oil theft are so expensive, poor people cannot afford to set up oil theft and illegal refining businesses. Only those with deep pockets can and they are killing you and I, destroying the economy.
“If we keep destroying our environment, the type of company that would want to come to this country that will give our children value proposition and contribute positively to our economy will not come. That is why I give credit to the Rivers State governor because some months ago, he showed leadership.
“But sustainability is key. You cannot win a league by winning a few games. I hear a lot of people calling for the cleanup of Niger Delta and my point is, if over 90 percent of those spills are cause by people that will go in with hacksaw and even explosive to vandalise the pipes, then they are creating a problem that will eat up the budget that would have been used for education, health and others.”
On the alleged complicity of Shell and other oil operatives in the gale of oil theft, Igo said: “There is no evidence to prove any of the company’s staff is culpable and no one will be shielded from prosecution if found wanting. What we do in Nigeria to protect our assets, we do not do it anywhere else in the world. We do daily overflight and it’s not cheap. We fly with chopper over assets to see what is happening with them.”
“We have wellhead cages designed to alert us when someone tampers with it. We detail engagement with security agencies and we provide them with information we get from these overfly in real time and right now we currently have a contract to use drones.”