By Ejiofor Alike in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

As part of the efforts to address frequent disruptions to the supply of crude oil to the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company (KRPC) as a result of the Niger Delta militancy, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is considering importing crude oil from Chad and Niger Republic, investigations by THISDAY have revealed.

This is coming as the President of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Qatar’s Energy Minister, Mohammed Al Sada, has stated that oil prices would rebound during the third and fourth quarters of 2016.
NNPC, it was learnt, is also considering the option of using railway transportation to move crude from the Niger Delta to the refinery complex.

A top official of the NNPC, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, disclosed yesterday that the corporation might refit the Kaduna refinery to be able to process Nigerien and Chadian crude grades, following the incessant attacks on the pipelines that feed the plant with Nigerian Bonny Light crude.

According to him, the refinery was originally designed to process Nigerian crude and foreign heavy crude at the ratio of about 70:30.

“The original design capacity was 60,000 barrels per day of light crude. So in order to process paraffinic based crude oil from Venezuela, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, the capacity was later increased to 110,000bpd.

“So apart from having the capacity to refine Bonny Light, the plant can also process heavy crude oil from Kuwait, Lagomar crude from Venezuela, Arabian Light from Saudi Arabia and Urals from Russia.

“But for it to refine crude from Chad or Niger, the plant requires some form of refitting so that it can use crude specification from those countries as well. The refitting does not involve complex technology,” he explained.

Spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Garuba Deen Muhammad did not respond when contacted by THISDAY, but the Public Affairs Manager of KRPC, Mr. Idris Abdullahi confirmed that the options of importing crude from Chad and Niger, as well as using rail lines were actually being considered.
“We will choose from the two options but it depends on the financial viability. The refinery had rail lines right from inception. The rail lines were used to bring in materials and equipment during its construction.

“They have never been used to transport crude to the refineries. We get crude from Warri through the pipelines. But we are now thinking of using the lines to bring in crude from the Niger Delta because of the vandalism of the pipelines.

“The second option being considered is importation from Niger and Chad. We are considering the two options and the option we will choose will depend on the viability,” Abdullahi explained.

Inadequate maintenance and vandalism of crude oil pipelines have led to the sub-optimal performance of the country’s 445,000bpd capacity refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna.

Barely one month after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had re-commissioned the 46-km Escravos-Warri pipeline repaired by Ocean Marine Solution in April this year, thus restoring crude oil supply to Warri and Kaduna refineries, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has claimed responsibility for a series of attack on oil and gas assets, bombed the pipeline.

While Nigeria is battling with militancy in the oil-producing region, Chad is facing the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency and other security threats around its border with Nigeria, Libya and the Central African Republic.

From a production capacity of around 100,000 barrels per day in 2014, Chad had set a target to increase production from 130,000 bpd by the end of 2014 to 260,000 barrels per day in 2016 from the Mangara and Badila oilfields, which are operated by Glencore Xstrata, and another field managed by a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

Niger Republic had a set target of increasing production from 20,000 barrels per day to 80,000 bpd in 2016, with the country’s refinery consuming 20,000 bpd, while 60,000 bpd will be exported through Cameroun and Chad.

A Nigerian delegation had in November 2011 represented former President Goodluck Jonathan when Niger Republic inaugurated the 20,000 barrel-per-day Soraz refinery near Zinder, very close to the Nigerian border.

The refinery is 60 per cent-owned by Chinese state oil company, CNPC and 40 per cent by Niger Republic.

In a related development, the President of OPEC is forecasting that the price of crude oil will rise during the third and fourth quarters of 2016, said a statement posted on the cartel’s website.

“Expectation of higher crude oil demand in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, coupled with decrease in availability, is leading the analysts to conclude that the current bear market is only temporary, and oil price would increase during later part of 2016,” Al Sada said.

Militants Kill Soldiers

Meanwhile, suspected militants yesterday ambushed a location of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Nembe town, Bayelsa State, killing three soldiers and carting away several arms and ammunition belonging to the security outfit.

During the incident which occurred at about 9.30 a.m., the gunmen made away with military gunboats after they sacked the operatives of the JTF stationed at the checkpoint in the waterways of the state.
The checkpoint, it was gathered, is located at the entrance of the community and has existed since the outset of the armed agitation in the Niger Delta region.

The gunmen were reportedly disguised as mourners in order to deceive the security operatives and let out several gunshots on the unsuspecting officers, killing three instantly and injuring several others, including civilians.

Many residents of the area, it was gathered, became apprehensive when they heard the sound of gunshots which unsettled the community during the surprise attack that lasted for about 30 minutes.
The gang, which operated in several gunboats, caught the soldiers unawares and left no chance for a quick response, a source said.

A resident of the area said many people started fleeing for fear that the military might return for a reprisal attack.

“The attack was deadly and well planned. Nobody had expected that such a thing would happen at such a time when the jetties are busy with people preparing to go about their normal business activities.
“I am sure even the soldiers did not expect this to happen at that time. Some persons who were already sailing out of Nembe said they saw the gunmen but dismissed them as mourners because they were dressed in white robes,” he said.

The source further said that following the incident, some residents in Nembe fled the community while others locked themselves indoors following widespread fears of a reprisal.

It was learnt that the incident occurred at the same military checkpoint where five soldiers were shot dead and heavy guns carted away in November last year.

Officials of the state government were said to have sent a delegation to the area while the JTF deployed more men to the scene and on the trail of the violent gang.
A statement later yesterday by the acting spokesman of the JTF, Lieutenant Commander A. Ahmed, said the security operatives vowed to go on the offensive against the suspects.

“Some suspected gunmen believed to be militants at about 10 a.m. on 8th of August 2016 attacked the 343 Artillery Regiment, a detachment of Operation Delta Safe deployed in the Nembe jetty in Bayelsa State.

“During the incident, three soldiers lost their lives. The commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, has consequently deployed a reinforcement team to apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

“He further warned that henceforth, Operation Delta Safe will go on the offensive to fish out all criminals in the region.
“It should be noted that the attack by militants was as a result of the ongoing operations of the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, aimed at flushing out all forms of criminality, especially pipeline vandalism and the destruction of illegal refineries within the region.

“The command wishes to assure the law abiding public, particularly the Nembe community that Operation Delta Safe is mandated to ensure conducive and safe water ways for legitimate businesses in the joint operation areas”, the statement said.

Ex-militant Picked to Battle Vandalism
However, before yesterday’s attack at the Nembe creek, the Bayelsa State Government at the weekend began the implementation of its new strategy to end the menace of militancy, pipeline vandalism, pirate attacks, kidnappings and other criminal activities along the waterways and creeks of the state.

The governor of the state, Mr. Seriake Dickson, inaugurated a former militant leader, Mr. Africanus Ukparasia, popularly known as ‘General’ Africa, as the chairman of the state Waterway Security Taskforce.

At the inaugural ceremony, which reportedly took place at the Banquet Hall, Yenagoa, Dickson mandated the taskforce to provide the security agencies with the required intelligence to deal with criminals.

The ceremony which later moved to Africa’s home attracted youths and leaders from different parts of the state, including the state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Tiwe Oruminighe and the state secretary of the party, Mr. Marlin Daniel.

In his remarks, Africa assured the government of adequate security and intelligence gathering along the waterways of the state. He said criminals would no longer be allowed to take over the waterways to kill innocent people and subject travellers and traders to untold hardship.

He warned sea robbers and other criminals operating in the state to leave the creeks or face tough times. Speaking on the choice of Africa, Oruminighe hailed Dickson for the appointment and said though the ex-militant leader is a member of APC, matters of security cut across party lines.
He said Dickson, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), recently visited Buhari to seek ways of solving the Niger Delta problem.


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