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Aiteo Denies Being Behind Nigerian Protests over Illegal Bunkering in the Niger-Delta

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Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, has come under fire from Commander of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman who claimed that the company was behind a Press conference held by some youth from the Niger-Delta in Abuja which accused the commander of mismanagement in his role.

The company released a statement which was mailed to THE HERALD in which they denied being involved in any way and that any attempt to accuse them would be a futile attempt.

Read the statement below:

Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, strongly disputes the claim made by the Commander of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman on or about June 1, 2018 citing the company and its Chief Executive Benedict Peters as the masterminds behind the serious allegations levied against him by the people of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. To put the factual matrix in perspective, it appears that on June 1, 2018, hundreds of youths connected to the Niger Delta region organised a World Press Conference at Abuja within which one of the central themes was to draw attention to the activities of Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman in his role as the OPDS, also known as Joint Task Force (JTF), Supremo.

OPDS, which comprises of members of the Nigerian Navy, Army, Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Custom Service personnel was designed to ensure the safety of lives and property in the Niger-Delta but with the continued unabated illegal oil bunkering activities which has translated into the loss of lives and attendant revenue to the tune of billions of dollars, allegations were made against him, accusing him of complicity in the growing menace of illegal bunkering and oil thefts and calling for his immediate removal from office.

For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, any attempt by the embattled Admiral Suleiman to suggest Aiteo’s involvement in the activities of those who undertook the event or indeed any other related activity is a distraction designed to fail. It does not, in any way, detract from the weight of allegations with which Admiral Suleiman has been publicly confronted nor the overwhelming need for him to engage in a process that will allow him to deal with the substantive issues that flow from that event.

Aiteo has enormous responsibilities in the oil industry requiring focused intensity and attention in the execution of our quite considerable commercial obligations. With a daily production in the region of 90,000kbp, the NNPC/Aiteo JV is now directly responsible for producing 5% of the country’s daily oil production. In doing so, the group employs over several hundred direct staff and thousands of others indirectly through contractors and service suppliers. This sense of responsibility is the bedrock on which our commercial and other activities are founded. Sadly, these oil thefts have meant that we are one of the biggest victims of oil theft in the country.

As the opportunity regretfully presents, we consider it apt to clarify a number of “matters arising” from the Admiral’s unfortunate comments:

As a result of recurrent thefts along the NCTL pipeline route resulting in significant pressure reductions on the trunk line, theft points identification as well as illegal refineries, and corroborated by several Joint Investigative visits constituted by various regulatory bodies and the applicable host community, Nigeria has experienced loss of production and revenue that should have accrued to the country. In Dec 2016 alone, 45.46% of the total net crude injected into the NCTL was lost on this basis which implies that the country lost revenues that could have been accumulated in the country’s treasury from crude sales.

Third party interference with the line has often resulted in oil leaks which ultimately culminate in shutting down the NCTL to undertake emergency repairs. This in itself has resulted in the NCTL being shut down for about 145 days and an approximate deferment of 50.386 million barrels of Crude Oil (Net) for the 6 injectors into the NCTL since Aiteo took over the operatorship of the Trunk line in September 2015.

As recently as May 1, 2018 there were a total of 24 illegal bunkering points identified along the NCTL. Aiteo has successfully repaired 9 of these illegal bunkering points during May 2018 at a huge cost to the company. These illegal bunkering points also contribute to the huge losses on the volumes injected across the NCTL by the six OMLs and the volumes actually received at Bonny Terminal.
Due to the continued vandalisation of the NCTL and resulting oil theft, Aiteo has written to the Federal Government, through the Chief of Army Staff, General TY Buratai on two occasions (April 17 and 23, 2018), requesting the involvement of the Armed Forces in reinforcing existing security arrangements to the pipeline as the incessant security breaches were resulting in losses amounting to billions of Naira for the country. We have made similar efforts to various other arms of the security apparatus of the country.
Aiteo is very concerned, not just about the effect of these disruptions on its bottom-line, but the health and livelihood of people living in these areas. This tragic trajectory is not only condemnable, but inimical to human existence, in the long term.
Some of these issues are captured in recurring questions that may even have been articulated by those communities complaining about the OPDS’s role as follows:

Why has large-scale illegal oil bunkering and refining assumed unprecedented dimensions in recent times?
Is it correct that the security forces are now offering protection/escort services to those allegedly responsible for oil thefts?
How is it that vessel movement of the oil thieves occurs unnoticed in the region despite heightened activity in large scale illegal bunkering.?

Nigeria cannot afford to remain passive as our sovereign wealth is being aggressively pilfered, aided by indifference on the part of relevant stakeholders. These activities are highly injurious to the economy of a country vacillating between recession and the fringes of economic stability. As a major indigenous producer, Aiteo identifies with issues about which the communities rightly complain. “Although – and again we make this abundantly clear – we have NOT instigated them to participate in any protest, we believe the object of their complaint about the persistence of illegal bunkering remains germane. All hands must be on deck to diminish and extinguish the theft of oil across the NCTL and other such national facilities and its attendant implications.”

As a socially responsible organization, Aiteo understands that the community bears the brunt of illegal bunkering and refining activities. Indigenes of these communities remain morally and legally free to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed civic rights to peacefully protest against ills in their community till their voices are heard and desired remedial or corrective actions are taken.

Aiteo utilizes this opportunity to reiterate its long-standing commitment to due process and international best practices in the discharge of every aspect of its statutory mandate.

Famutimi Femi is a writer for theheraldng. He is also a lawyer by trade. His hobbies include reading and writing, he also loves Renaissance art.

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