Repositioning NSCDC to deliver on core-mandates

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has been in the news lately. BODE OLAGOKE reports that everything is being done to reposition the agency towards addressing its core mandates.

It is no longer news that Nigeria is losing about 108,000 barrels of crude theft daily from state-linked production. In fact, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), according to a report, estimated that the country lost 2.3 million barrels in July alone and 28 million barrels in total from January to July of this 2022.
OPEC also lamented that theft and vandalism have made it impossible to meet the assigned production quota of 1.8mbpd.

The international organisation particularly said Nigeria lost $1 billion to crude theft in first quarter of 2022. Consequently, the impact is not in small measure on an economy already under pressure doubly battered by the COVID-19 fallout.

NNPC boss’ alarm

As rightly captured recently by the group chief executive officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, such spate of vandalism the country has witnessed has prompted the NNPC to shut down its entire network of pipelines conveying petroleum products nationwide.

Kyari said, “When we say we are losing several 700,000 barrels of crude oil daily, we mean it. This is opportunity loss. There is no company that would produce oil and then you lose 80 percent of that and continue to produce the oil.”
But experts say the deteriorating situation demands extraordinary security measures in stopping the theft.

A look at NSCDC

To achieve this, the law has placed the responsibility of providing protection for critical national assets ranging from oil pipelines, telecommunication masts, electrical installations among others, on the shoulder of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and not the Police, Army, Navy or any other government establishments. Although other security agencies can be of assistance, but it must be on record that NSCDC is the leading agency in this regard.

To perform this responsibility as expected and reduce the country’s daily loss to a minimum level, NSCDC cannot achieve the task without the necessary equipment, required personnel and political will.
However, whether the government has provided the agency with all it needs to fight the vandals is another story, but in recent times, the present leadership of NSCDC, Commandant General Ahmed Audi, has taken notable steps to confront the change.

Audi facing the challenge

For example, about three weeks ago, he summoned Commandants and Heads of Anti-Vandal Units across the country to the nation’s capital to challenge them on how to address oil theft in the country.
During the strategic security meeting, the Commandant General tasked the officers to check excesses and inappropriate behaviours of officers so as to address oil theft and bunkering.

Audi said, “Some believe that security agencies are part of oil theft in the country, but we must do what is necessary to redeem our image.

“I want to make it clear that anyone involved would not be spared. We would apply all the rules necessary for sanctions of all recalcitrant elements.
“The corps would use its hammer on any personnel involved in compromise of oil theft regardless of his position.
“There would be severe punishment for anyone found wanting.

“If you join the corps to make money by cooperating with oil thieves, we urge you to resign. The minister has directed that anyone caught sabotaging the image of government should be severely sanctioned.

“Some of the anti vandals units have been found wanting. We want you to reposition the units for better performance.
“I want to say that the corps has no place for mediocrity and incompetence. Redouble your efforts and reposition the sectors for better performance.”

Acquisition of gunboats

A week later after the admonition, the NSCDC invited the interior minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, to commission eight gunboats acquired by the agency to wage a full scale war against perpetrators of the heinous crime.

While commissioning the gunboats, Aregbesola said the move became necessary to strengthen the combative capacity of NSCDC Anti-Vandalism Squad in stemming the tide of huge revenue loss to the federal government in the oil sector.
He said the country in recent past had recorded various occurrences of crude oil theft and reports has shown that the country loses million of dollars daily.
“Of the 141 million barrels of oil produced in the 1st quarter of year 2022, only 132 million barrels of oil were received at export terminals. Further results reveal that over nine million barrels of oil was lost to crude oil theft.”

The minister decried the negative impacts of crude oil theft and oil pipeline vandalism in the nation.
He called on all security agencies to shun inter-agency rivalries and synergise by supporting the fight against oil theft in order to salvage the nation’s economy of saboteurs.

The minister further maintained that NSCDC as the lead agency in safeguarding Critical National Assets and Infrastructure is mandated to use the available logistics provided by the government to reduce crime rate and by extension take the war against crude oil theft to the camp of the enemies.

Further admonition/sledgehammer

In his own contribution during the commissioning, the NSCDC boss said the eight newly acquired gunboats and other strategies put in place would boost the morale of the corps in combating the menace of crude oil theft along the waterways.

“The NSCDC is generally expected to effectively safeguard critical infrastructure and oil installations which are very central and vital to the socio-economic development of the nation.

“The corps is saddled with the mandate to guard against oil theft, illegal oil bunkering through the provision of physical security to oil pipelines against vandalism.
“Therefore, any threat to the oil and gas sector is automatically considered as a high security concern owing to the debilitating effects it has on national development.

“It also constitutes environmental degradation, pollution, destruction of land and aquatic life, loss of means of livehood and drastic reduction in the inflow of foreign exchange needed to bolster the economy of the nation,” the CG said.
He reiterated the corps’ determination and unwavering commitment to the war against illegal oil bunkering and assured the government and entire nation that the gunboats would be distributed to states in the coastal region as the corps continues to collaborate with the military and other security agencies.

Meanwhile, three weeks after this charge, the NSCDC ordered the dissolution of road blocks mounted by the anti theft unit of the corps nationwide due to inefficiency.
According to the NSCDC boss, the dissolution was due to the uninspiring performance of the unit in the past few months and the need to sanitise and bring fresh ideas and perspectives into the operation.

Audi said the minister had approved the dissolution of the unit, adding that all unapproved road-blocks mounted by NSCDC personnel across the country were also dissolved with immediate effect.
Audi explained that following unprecedented reports of crude oil thefts, vandalism of critical national infrastructures and collusion of some personnel with criminals, the government had come to the inevitable conclusion that the present Anti Vandal Unit cannot deliver on its mandate.

To this end, if the new strategies being put in place by NSCDC is anything to go by, it would address the fears raised recently by the group chief executive officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited that stolen crude oil products were stored in places of worship such as churches and mosques.