Is This a Bigger Threat than Piracy for Nigeria?
Other than piracy, Nigeria has another problem to deal with. Just recently, twenty-six sailors detained in August appealed for help after being detained by the Nigerian Navy on suspicion of being involved in oil theft. In addition, the Nigerian Navy also accused oil companies such as Shell of being complicit in oil theft.
Oil theft is a crime which involves syphoning oil from pipelines to sell on in illegal and legal markets. Other activities are also in this trade, such as processing oil and oil theft from ships.
The term oil bunkering is also used meaning to fill a vessel with oil, although the oil is stolen in this case. As oil is Nigeria's main export, this is a security concern for the state. In 2011 Nigeria produced 2.5 million barrels of oil daily, which has dropped to 1 million in 2022.
As a result, this industry's revenue is also on the decline. Whilst other factors will be at play, the region's security is undoubtedly a factor in reducing oil production. Furthermore, the issue is a maritime one due to multiple factors, including the use of the Niger Delta for oil pipelines and criminal hideaways, in addition to the reliance on maritime trade to transport the oil to European and American markets. The business is linked with piracy and insurgent groups in the Niger Delta that use piracy and oil theft as divergent income streams to support other criminal and insurgent activities.
What exacerbates the problem in Nigeria is the supposed link between oil theft and corruption in the government. Nigeria is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt, ranking 154 out of 180, with one being the least corrupt. There have also been allegations of corruption when it comes to piracy, with officials supposedly being paid off to look the other way for pirate activities or to help in the targetting of vessels.
"The business is linked with piracy and insurgent groups in the Niger Delta that use piracy and oil theft as divergent income streams to support other criminal and insurgent activities".
For oil theft, it is considered the same, with officials turning a blind eye or even helping for a profit. A recent incident saw the burning of a vessel carrying 650,000 litres of oil supposedly by Nigerian officials, and people have highlighted this as suspicious behaviour hinting at corruption.
It could be hypothesised as the eradication of evidence. Various other reports have also pointed the finger at Nigerian authorities for helping in this illegal trade. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency will have work to do to solve this problem and prevent the damage that it is doing to the Nigerian economy.
Overall, oil theft is a severe problem in Nigeria which is hurting the country's economic growth. Whilst Nigeria's insurance status is changing for piracy in the maritime industry which will help economic growth, the problem of oil theft may dampen the progress made in other realms of maritime security and economic development.