Oil Thefts Threaten Nigeria’s Economy, Environment

oil_theft

The first drops of crude float in the languid muddy currents of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, then slowly grow into the splatter of a massive crime scene.

Oil thefts, long a problem in the Niger Delta, are growing at an ever-faster rate despite government officials and international companies offering increasingly dire warnings about the effect on Nigeria’s crude production. Some 200,000 barrels a day — representing about 10 percent of Nigeria’s production — are siphoned off pipelines crisscrossing the region.

While drums end up leaking in villages and used to make crude kerosene and gasoline, the major thieves appear to belong to international criminal gangs that sell it into world markets, analysts and experts say. And the same Nigerian politicians and military leaders now targeting the small-scale local refineries that dot the delta likely are the ones benefiting from those massive thefts.

Oil is the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy. Since the company that would become Royal Dutch Shell PLC discovered the first commercially viable well in 1956, oil earnings grew to account for some 80 percent of all government revenue in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people. While corruption sees much of that money frittered away, it still provides needed funding for projects in the country.[Leadership Newspapers]

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