Nigeria destroys 260 illegal oil refineries

March 17, 2014

The Nigerian Navy said it has destroyed 260 illegal oil refineries and burned 100,000 tons of contraband fuel, but critics say this targeting of small-time criminals fails to confront the biggest culprits in oil thefts — the politically-connected criminal cartels who sell on the international market, AP reported on March 16.

Similar missions in the past have failed to slow thefts valued at more than $20 million a day on the world market. Shell Nigeria, the biggest operator in the West African nation, said it lost $1 billion to oil thefts in 2013.

On March 16, Shell confirmed that an under-sea pipeline leak has forced the closure of its Forcados export terminal, a major installation with capacity to handle 400,000 barrels of crude a day. Spokesman Precious Okolobo said the terminal was closed March 4 and the cause of the leak still is being investigated.

On March 14 night, the commanding officer of the NNS Delta, Capt. Musa Gemu, said sailors destroyed about 260 refineries in the Warri area of the southern Niger Delta. He said they also arrested five suspects.

A former militant in the area, Cross Ebikpade, said such attacks have little effect as the primitive operations use materials like oil drums that are easily available locally. "You can burn the site today but by next week the operators are back in business," he said.

Niger Delta residents have told The Associated Press that they feel entitled to steal oil because they have received little reparation for decades of oil spills and gas flaring that have corrupted their environment, killing fishing and agricultural fields.

Copyright: AP, 2014