Opuwei: Indigenous players can tackle pipeline vandalism

Opuwei: Indigenous players can tackle pipeline vandalism

Thursday, January 28, 2016 1:58 pm

Wilson Endy Opuwei

Wilson Endy Opuwei

Managing Director, Dateline Energy Services, Wilson Endy Opuwei shares with Henry Ojelu, the challenges in the Nigerian oil and gas policy sector and what the government can do to fix them.

Q:What is your take on the resurgence of pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region?

A: I must say that it is unfortunate that this should be happening at a time when our economy is currently at a fix as a result of the change of guard from one government to another, the somersaults in monetary and fiscal policies as well as the drop in global oil pricing which has put pressure on the naira against the dollar amongst others.

We also believe that this government is working to create policies that allows for stability of our currency, as well as incentivise the private sector as enablers to ensure that industries are export oriented because as an export focused economy trades and earnings will be dollarised and would stand better chances of redeeming our fast falling naira in the international market place. Only then should government talk about either de-valuing or re-denominating the naira because the more foreign revenue we earn as a nation the better for the naira

Q:What is your position on government engaging stakeholders in the Niger Delta to tackle the issue of pipeline vandalism?

A:Government should not forget that there was an Ijaw national question, which in my view remains unanswered because politicians got distracted and started engaging militants. They forgot that it started off as an intellectual struggle where stake holders held international conventions, town-hall meetings and even submitted white papers seeking redress and lasting solutions to the issues. This went on even as the insurgence became noticeable as the agitators created unrests thus damaging oil installations thereby affecting oil production activities in the region.

However the President Mohammadu Buhari’s government should at this time engage indigenous industry operators, community leaders and investors who are equal stakeholders in addressing the challenges of the region. In fact people like us that have foreign investor partners, as co-owners of the pipelines and facilities cannot afford for ventures not to be profitable which would in turn increase production and activities as well as added revenue for the nation.

Of course, we saw some militants who under the Presidential Amnesty Programme, not only gave up arms but also attempted to protect and safeguard oil operation activities, whilst trying to keep the water ways safe for the people, even as they checkmated oil theft in the region.
However the recent spite of pipeline bombings couldn’t have been as a result of agitations but economic sabotage and my advise to government would be to employ strategic engagements, deploy intelligence gathering and investigations as well as consult with community leaders because the criminal elements also lives amongst them. I don’t support a military invasion which could lead to killings of innocent citizens.

Subsequently government should downplay militant engagement for now and work through state governments, intellectuals and well-meaning industry operators who are investors and have the development of the nation at heart. Also government should remember that the Niger Delta has well-meaning people who have worked tirelessly for the development of the region as an integral part of this nation and deserve a right to social security, equality and wellbeing considering that they the goose that lays the golden egg. Furthermore government should recognize the efforts of some leaders who have contributed somehow towards the development of the area in other ways aside being in government as they have been behind the peace and stability in the region.

Q: How can government address issues of illegal bunkering and blocking of leakages of revenue accruing from oil?

A: In one word, this is called economic sabotage whereby unauthorized persons who ordinarily cannot afford vessels or off-take equipment are found vandalizing oil and gas installations and freely transporting the products across the waterways for personal gains. As we know, it is a capital-intensive venture as such there must be financiers backing these illegal activities. So government should deploy intelligence to identify the people within the value chain from vandalism to the sales and purchase of products. Government must also to review the regulations and encourage setting up of modular refineries whereby eligible entities are certified and giving incentives to build and operate related ventures legally, which will also create jobs for some people in the area.
Furthermore industry regulators should ensure an effective corporate governance structure that ensures transparency and provide real time surveillance of installations and facilities in the region.

Q: The last administration engaged local groups to protect the pipelines. What is your view on that?

A: Incidentally, there are modern technologies for surveying and protecting oil and gas pipelines including ‘SCADA” which allows for remote monitoring so we don’t have to physically patrol to monitor pipelines. This also allows for the military to effectively patrol only suspected sections, as they can see the entire lines from a remote station and can even deploy commands to destabilize or activate any particular section from the remote station.
Government should deploy technologies, not only to keep an eye on the pipelines but also protect the integrity considering that not every pipe leakage is sabotage as most of the old lines have outlived their lifespan and may erupt if not replaced on time. That is also another avenue to promoting local content especially those with the skill sets to undertake pipeline repairs and surveillance activities.

Q: What is your advice to the government on the current challenges being faced as a result of the falling oil price?

A: Government should diversify the economy by formulating policies that enables export-focused industrialization and to maximize oil and gas bye products development whilst promoting gas domestication and export, as well as channel the proceeds from oil sales to the right sectors.
Furthermore we should initiate new exploration and production activities as well attract investments to existing oil operations towards increasing production capacity, whilst reviewing the commercial template of current operators to align with the global pricing regime.

The PMB administration should see Nigeria as a lucrative and profitable business venture giving the infrastructures the nation’s endowment with human and natural resources to complement its strategic geo-location within the African market-map. As such serves as a collateral for borrowing because our infrastructures if revamped can pay up any debts, whilst Nigeria become the regional infrastructural support hub.

This government can be known in history as one who inherited a not too stable oil economy but was able to re-direct focus to other sectors of our comparative advantage, through embarking on long-term infrastructural development partnership project, mainly because as a government it can provide guarantees for medium-term funding as anticipated in the 2016 budget. Also by rebuilding our moribund infrastructures, especially those with potentials of generating quick revenue as well as creating jobs.

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