nigeria oil pipeline
© PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images
Nigeria's state oil company, NNPC Ltd, on Wednesday announced the discovery of a secret pipeline plugged into the Forcados export terminal.

Thieves have evidently been using this 2.5-mile pipe to siphon oil from one of Nigeria's most important export terminals for at least nine years.

According to NNPC chief Mele Kyari, the pirate pipe was discovered during a major crackdown on oil theft that was launched six weeks ago. The undersea Forcados tap is the most sophisticated theft operation discovered so far. The vast majority of Nigeria's oil theft occurs on land, where it is much easier to punch into remote sections of legitimate pipeline and siphon away some of the crude.

Comment: And one could reasonably suspect that certain members of the authority an

In total, Kyari blamed thieves for stealing or paralyzing 600,000 barrels per day of oil, bringing Nigeria's daily output below one million barrels for the first time since the 1990s. He explained that some operators are refusing to pump oil from fields that might have been tapped by thieves.

"Oil theft in the country has been going on for over 22 years but the dimension and rate it assumed in recent times is unprecedented," Kyari declared.

In September, Kyari said almost 95 percent of the oil from another terminal was being stolen and said investigators had discovered 295 illegal taps on a single 200-kilometer pipeline.

Comment: It seems unlikely that losses of this magnitude went unnoticed by authorities and it's likely that some of them were in cahoots.

He claimed oil theft was so widespread that even churches and mosques were involved, an allegation denied by Nigerian religious organizations.

"Even this thing they're talking about, that religious leaders being part of it, if there's any atom of truth in it, it will not be possible if the government was responsible and doing its work. They're just trying to bring in all these distractions," retorted Catholic Society of Nigeria Michael Umoh.

Kyari said in September that the oil theft clampdown had already resulted in 122 arrests, along with the seizure of hundreds of ships, small boats, and trucks involved in oil piracy.

Nigerian House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila angrily denounced oil theft as "treason" in September.

"Those who seek to impoverish our country in this manner have declared war against the Nigerian people. The government's response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason," he thundered.

The Premium Times of Nigeria estimated $10 billion was lost to crude oil theft during the first seven months of 2022, leaving the government without enough revenue to service its debt.

The Nigerian government became so desperate to crack down on oil thieves that it decided to hire an oil thief to run the crackdown: a man named Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo, commonly known by his nickname "Tompolo," who once headed a militant group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

Tompolo is also the high priest of a war god named Egbesu, but he does not really need a side hustle, because his security contract with the Nigerian government is valued at over a billion dollars. Kyari defended the eyebrow-raising contract in August by insisting Tompolo and his crew were best qualified to secure the pipelines, and they won the job in a fair bidding process.

"We need private contractors to man the right of way to these pipelines. So we put up a framework for contractors to come and bid and they were selected through a tender process. And we believe we made the right decision," the NNPC chief said.

"It is not abnormal to involve non-state actors for protection of oil pipelines and other critical infrastructure as done in Cambodia and Mexico which produced desired results," he insisted.