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Ijegun fire casts doubt on NNPC, IOCs’ pipeline security architecture—Expert

Senior Policy and Research lead at Nextier SPD (Security, Peace, and Development), Dr. Ndubuisi Nwokolo, has called for a total review and audit on pipeline security and surveillance structures put in place by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and all operating International Oil Companies (IOCs) across the country.
He also called for re-certification of the strength and integrity of pipelines owned by the NNPC and IOCs to establish their functionality and reliability over time.
In an interview, he decried that whenever there is a leaking pipelines, both IOCs and NNPC are fond of hastily heaping the blames on vandals even when the integrity of their installation are not fully established.
Making reference to the recent pipeline fire that razed dozens of cars with two deaths, Dr Nwokolo noted that “It is easy to blame vandals for previous attacks, he said, but it is unclear if other reasons such as valve or pipeline leakages might not be worsening the situation.
“Our country has sets of regulatory agencies that fail in their roles. Between faulty leaking pipes and valves, and deliberate attacks on these pipelines, we are not sure as we are not holding the oil companies and NNPC to account on maintenance of the pipelines,” the security expert averred.
According to him, “Pipeline vandalism could continue until the country develops a community security strategy”.
While degrading NNPC’s claim as not being tactical and result oriented enough considering the sophistication of vandals in recent times, he averred that “It was a system where people were just awarded contracts especially as part of the amnesty package. This rather fuelled more conflicts and pipelines vandalism and illegal bunkering, particularly by those not included in the surveillance contract.
“But if such contracts were awarded directly to the communities, who will employ people from their communities, pay them and keep the profit made for the entire community, it will produce a different result as it creates ownership, inclusiveness and the zeal to protect a common goal,” he said.
However, in a swift reaction to the Ijegun pipeline fire, NNPC’s Group General Manager (Group Public Affairs Division), Ndu Ughamadu, in a terse statement claimed that “The Corporation is currently finding a modern approach to the recurring cases of vandalism, especially laying pipes deeper in the ground”.
In his submission, “NNPC is not in charge of security. We are doing our jobs to lay the pipes and pump fuel. On laying the pipeline deeper, we have done that through modern technology and we have engaged local communities in addition to what the security agents are doing. But you find out that as we perfect our plans, so these vandals equally do theirs.”
In his preliminary statement on the fire, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency’s (LASEMA) chief executive officer, Femi Osanyintolu, revealed that the blaze followed the activities of “some vandals engaged in bunkering at Fire Junction, Ijegun, near where an NNPC pipeline was buried.”
During a visit by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) at the site of the inferno that ripped for 11 hours, it was discovered that vandals activities were more encouraged by the fact that some pipelines that ordinarily should have been deep inside the group are on surface and attractive for vandals with sabotage background and techniques.