“Shell, the biggest operator, says 150,000 barrels per day is stolen from Africa’s top oil producer. Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that as much as one-fifth of government revenue is lost to oil theft.
The small amount that is refined locally finds a ready market in a country whose legal refineries are largely defunct.
“We’re doing what they can’t,” quips one oil thief from his barge, a swipe at the Nigerian government’s failure to refine much of the fuel it produces because of decades of corruption.
Most of the theft happens on a larger scale, when coordinated groups of workers tap into oil infrastructure, siphoning crude into barges and motorboats before transporting the oil onto larger crafts a few miles offshore.
The complicity of corrupt security officials and politicians means this is unlikely to end any time soon, although President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has pledged to crack down.
Floating down waterways in Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, dozens of plumes of smoke are visible from micro-refineries.
The damage is incalculable: broken pipelines are abandoned and left to hemorrhage into the creeks, while deadly accidental fires desecrate several square kilometers of wetland vegetation.”
Read more: Reuters