Oil pipelines are national treasures and should be treated with the utmost security in a country. They are the means of transporting refined crude oil to make finished products like PMS (Premium motor spirit) amongst many others. It is sad to know that despite the importance of crude oil to the economy, vandals and militant groups have taken to the pipelines as an illegal means of livelihood. They sabotage pipelines to tap oil and refine for their selfish benefits. Nigeria, which is the largest producer of oil in Africa is experiencing a great effect on her economy. Crude oil is one of her most prized and major resources. The pipelines generally distribute the fuel needed for daily activities across Nigeria.
Oil pipeline vandalization is the breaking of oil pipelines to steal crude oil and its products. This unhealthy act can have effects such as;
- scarcity and unavailability of petroleum products,
- loss of life and property as a result of a fire outbreak,
- pollution of the environment,
- decreased availability of energy and
- economic loss (considered by many to be the biggest effect).
Over the years, there have been recurring problems with pipeline vandalism in various parts of Nigeria. These are mostly centered around the Niger Delta region. This translates into financial losses sometimes running into several billions of dollars. According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day (BPD) was lost to sabotaged pipelines in 2016.
Nigerian law speaks against oil pipeline vandalization and lays down policies that rule against such illegal acts. This is backed up by the constitution. Over the years, legislation has been put in place to stem the wave of oil theft and tampering with pipelines.
Foremost amongst these legislations is the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act of 1975. This was followed by the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1975. The latter provides stiffer penalties for damages to certain infrastructure. The infrastructure it protects includes oil pipelines. These laws are followed by the Miscellaneous Offences Act of 1984 as amended. A law which was initially titled “Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Act of 1984”.
Anyone who is caught in the act of vandalization, anyone who is also an aid, counsels or gets another person in the act of vandalism, such that it inhibits the distribution and production of oil will be convicted and punished duly.
The punishment for oil pipeline vandalism in Nigeria varies, and includes;
- Jail terms can range from a few days to months or even years, depending on the severity of the guilt or past criminal records.
- Payment of fines is also a punishment for oil pipeline vandalism, which also varies in price and gets paid to the court of law.
- Probation is also a penalty for vandalism, depending on the severity of the crime. It is a very short jail term and if its rules are breached the court can give the offender a longer jail term.