Pumps run dry: Pipeline plundered for $250m of petrol, Nigerian oil company says

Long queues have formed at petrol stations across Nigeria in recent days.

VANDALS stole nearly $250 million worth of petrol from a single pipeline in Nigeria in the first nine months of 2015, the country’s state-run oil company said Thursday, as motorists complained of shortages.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said 531 million litres of petrol worth more than 50 billion naira were lost between January and September.

The petrol was taken from the System 2B pipeline which stretches from the financial hub of Lagos to Ilorin, some 260 kilometres (160 miles) away to the northeast, the company added in a statement.

Nigerian governments past and present have repeatedly blamed pipeline vandalism and theft in the oil sector for hitting revenues as well as supplies to consumers.

The Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, an NNPC subsidiary, told a Senate committee that “incessant hacking” of the System 2B pipeline had “made the task of providing seamless flow of petroleum products to retail outlets more burdensome”.

Long queues have formed at petrol stations across Nigeria in recent days.

The situation has been blamed on a payment dispute between oil marketers, who import petroleum products, and the government.

Nigeria is Africa’s number one oil exporter but has imported most of its petrol because of a lack of domestic refining capacity.

The government keeps prices at the pump low and pays the difference in the international market rate to the importers.

PPMC managing director Esther Nnamdi Ogbue said earlier the company was “working hard” to resolve the issue, according to comments from a radio interview posted on the NNPC Twitter feed.

“We have been pushing 35 million litres every day to the market and there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be fuel,” she added, blaming “sharp practices” such as hoarding in some areas.

Fuel shortages are a regular occurrence in Nigeria and in May the country was brought to a virtual standstill after importers shut depots over subsidy payments.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to scrap the subsidy scheme, which is seen as riddled with corruption, but a previous attempt to stop the payments led to violent mass protests in 2012.

NNPC managing director Emmanuel Kachikwu in August called the subsidy scheme an unsustainable drain on the economy, which has been battered by the global fall in oil prices.

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