The President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, said officials of government conniving with criminals involved in vandalising oil pipelines should be prosecuted if identified.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after the consideration of the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Pipeline Explosions during plenary.
Accordingly, Lawan mandated the Senate Committee on Petroleum (downstream) to invite the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to ensuring a review of security measures for pipelines in parts of the country.
The president of the Senate also said the National Assembly would amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act to prevent the activities of pipeline vandals that lead to explosions and deaths.
He said: “Our Committee on Petroleum (downstream) should invite the NNPC with a view to know what they have been doing over the years to secure the pipelines; what measures are in place and whether there is need to review these agreements.
“This is a multi-billion dollar industry, people consciously do these things, and it’s not an accident.
“Those who are caught in the fires or who come to scavenge are the ones who end up losing their lives, this is not acceptable.
“There must be sanctions, somebody will have to pay the price and of course, after these resolutions are sent to the executive, our committee must follow it up.
“When we have to amend the NOSDRA Act, this is something that we have to do expeditiously.
“We should do it because it will help in preventing or minimising the reoccurrence of these criminal acts.”
Earlier in his contribution to the debate on the report, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu State) blamed the activities of pipeline vandals on some officials of the NNPC.
The legislator called for the introduction of punishment for any official of the corporation caught conniving with pipeline vandals.
“If there is no punishment for any offence, the tendency that it will be repeated severally will be there.
“The people in NNPC must find those people and discipline them. I’m suggesting that the downstream committee should follow up this issue to make sure those people managing these pipelines face the music.
“We have to get these people and ensure they are punished,” Utazi said.
The lawmaker also called for the amendment of the NOSDRA Act.
“Let us get all these laws concerned with the regulation of the petroleum industry amended holistically,” he added.
Sen. Ibrahim Musa (APC, Jigawa North) said the government should “focus on the criminal rings responsible for the initial pipeline breakage”.
Sen. Rochas Okorocha (APC, Imo) described pipeline vandalism as an act of economic sabotage and called on the Federal Government to subject the surveillance of oil pipelines to contractual arrangements with private firms.
Sen. Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun), accused the NNPC of conniving with vandals to sabotage the economy by encouraging the activities of oil pipeline vandals.
“This is not an act of negligence but connivance. The NNPC knows what to do and cannot claim ignorance. The NNPC knows from their office when a pipeline is vandalised.
“I want to support my colleagues that they should be punished.”
The Ad-Hoc committee’s report states that the incidences of pipeline explosions in Rivers and Lagos State would have been avoided if NNPC and Nigerian Pipeline Storage Company (NPSC) and contractors monitoring the pipelines were proactive.
The Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Sen. Ibrahim Gobir, said both NNPC and NPSC and the contractor were aware of the Komkom pipeline leakage in Rivers two days before the explosion but delayed in taking necessary action.
The lawmaker disclosed further that both NNPC/NPSC and the Oil service contractor were aware of the intended activity of the vandals and the leakage a week and a day respectively, before the Ijegun explosion in Lagos State.
He added that security personnel in connivance with NPSC staff collaborated with the vandals to siphon petroleum products from the pipelines.
The Senate, after consideration of the report on pipeline explosions, adopted all 16 recommendations by the Ad-Hoc Committee.
Accordingly, the Senate recommended that NNPC without further delay, embark on Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in re-laying pipelines especially in identified hotspots where erosion had exposed the pipelines to the surface.
The upper chamber also recommended that NNPC involve members of host communities in pipeline surveillance within their various areas as an interim preventive measure.
The Senate further recommended the deployment of modern technology in pipeline surveillance and detection of leakages as well as the introduction of “cathodic prevention of the pipelines.
It also mandated NNPC to refund to the treasury, the “outrageous” sum of N382,203,055.74 it claimed to have used in fire fighting operation in Komkom and provide evidence of compliance to the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.