News / Africa

Shell to Shut Down Major Pipeline in Nigeria

A warning sign belonging to the company Royal Dutch Shell is seen along the Nembe creek in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa, December 2, 2012 file photo.
A warning sign belonging to the company Royal Dutch Shell is seen along the Nembe creek in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa, December 2, 2012 file photo.
Heather Murdock
Shell Nigeria, one of the largest oil companies in the Niger Delta, is planning to shut down one of the most important pipelines in the country because of 'unprecedented' levels of oil theft this year.  Observers say repairing the damaged pipeline will not fix the problem.

Shutting down a 150,000 barrel a day oil pipeline is a big deal but Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria says it has no choice. It says it has to shut down the Nembe Creek Trunkline, a major oil export pipe, to repair holes drilled by oil thieves.  Shell declined to say when it expects the pipeline to re-open.

Security forces say they are successfully combating oil thieves but Shell says sabotage has increased dramatically this year.

Joseph Adheke, an oil worker, says people are buying, selling and transporting illegal oil in plain sight on the Niger Delta creeks.

"A barge that would take three hours to cover a journey of just a mile or two: How come they could not be arrested?  How come they can carry crude and escape the watchful eyes of this surveillance, the military and the rest of them," he said.

Isitoah Ozoemene, a political science lecturer at the State College of Education in Warri, a Niger Delta oil town, says it is possible that both Shell and security forces are correct: oil theft is increasing and security forces are catching more thieves.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, shipping about 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.  Nigerians in the Niger Delta have long complained all they get for their land’s oil wealth are massive oil spills.

Ozoemene says the reason oil theft persists is largely systematic. The main beneficiaries of oil theft, known as "illegal bunkerers" are wealthy "big men" but they could not do it without unemployed young people frustrated by abject poverty in a region awash with oil wealth.

"Bunkerers are able to do this because there are a lot of young people who are frustrated with the system are ready to work with them for their own benefit," said Ozoemene.

The answer, he says, is not to stop local people from making money from oil, but to find a way to make it legal.

"But if the system accommodates them and makes them a stakeholder or if government policies acknowledge that these resources belong to this area and they can exploit them and pay taxes to the government these so called big-time bunkers would not succeed," he said.

He also says it is possible that security forces, known as the Joint Task Force, or JTF, have a hard time stopping saboteurs because individual officers look the other way.

"You may also have a very corrupt regime.  For instance, JTF is made up of very lowly paid military officers.  Everybody wants to cash in on the oil wealth so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an issue of corruption there," he said.

Other observers say even if there is no corruption at all among security forces, it is still impossible for them to stop oil thieves. 

Jackson Timiyan, a community leader in oil-rich Gbaramatu Kingdom, says the answer is not to let the people steal oil, but to pay them to police the pipelines.

"They are more familiar with the terrain," he said. "They know who can perpetrate these acts.  If the act is perpetrated they know where the act can take place.  Not somebody that doesn’t know the terrain.  You can take the entire Nigerian army into the creeks.  That would not curtail illegal bunkering and crude oil theft."

Between 2003 and 2008 there was an insurgency in the Niger Delta, with militants attacking the oil companies and the government.  The all-out war quieted in 2009, with former militants basically being paid not to fight.  However, instability in the region remains and the people say their grievances have never been addressed.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs