Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, on Tuesday blamed Nigeria’s economic woes, including the free fall on the Naira value and high cost of living on unabated oil theft and assets vandalism.
Country Head, Corporate Relations, SPDC, Igo Weli, in interaction with the media in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, asserted that with heavy reliance on oil proceeds, even when oil prices are currently above a hundred dollars, Nigeria still struggles because of low output induced by crude oil theft and with low output comes low income in foreign exchange.
He warned that unless urgent action is taken to halt the ceaseless oil theft, the nation is headed for a period when government would have to spend half of its budget cleaning up the mess resulting from crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products.
Igo said, “We can link most of the problems to the fact of these illegal activities going on. People are so bold and proud of it. Sometimes people call into radio programs to hail them because they assume people who engage in bunkering are doing so because they are hungry and do not have jobs.
“That is not true. Equipments required to carry out oil theft are so expensive, poor people cannot afford to set up oil theft and illegal refining businesses. Only those with deep pockets can and they are killing you and I, destroying the economy.
“If we keep destroying our environment, the type of company that would want to come to this country that will give our children value proposition and contribute positively to our economy will not come. That is why I give credit to the Rivers State Governor because some months ago he showed leadership.
“But sustainability is key. You cannot win a league by winning a few games. I hear alot of people calling for the cleanup of Niger Delta and my point is if over 90% of those spills are cause by people that will go in with hack saw and even explosive to vandalise the pipes, then they are creating a problem that will eat up the budget that would have been used for education, health and others.
“It is a simple link. If you break pipes, it leads to leaks and it’s very expensive to clean up and Government has to clean up because that is what you are clamouring for. If this continues, the implication is that there will be no growth, new infrastructure will not be built, old ones would not be maintained, ASUU strike might linger for two years.
“So the implication is dire, not something we should even think about. The urgency is that you start solving a problem by identifying cause. Once you Identify the cause you block the hole”
On alleged complicity of Shell and other oil operatives in the gale of oil theft, Igo said, “There is no evidence to prove any of the company’s staff is culpable and no one will be shielded from prosecution if found wanting. What we do in Nigeria to protect our assets, we do not do it anywhere else in the world. We do daily overflight and. It’s not cheap. We fly with chopper over assets to see what is happening with them.
“We have wellhead cages designed to alert us when someone tampers with it. We detail engagement with security agencies and we provide them with information we get from these overfly in real time. and right now we currently have a contract to use drones.”
The Shell Nigeria chief spokesman however assured, in the midst of the challenging operating environment that the oil giant is not leaving Nigeria but merely focusing more on its offshore assets in the country.