Nigeria loses 470,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, equating to $700m monthly, due to oil theft, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) announced on Sunday.

According to data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the country’s total oil and condensate production fell to an annual low of 1.18 million bpd in August.

The loss resulted in Nigeria’s lowest daily average output since at least 1997, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

In July, a Shell official claimed that industrial-scale oil theft poses an “existential threat” to Africa’s largest oil exporter. 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the issue is “enormously” impacting state finances. According to OPEC figures, Nigeria moved behind Angola as Africa’s largest exporter in July.

“When you multiply seven million barrels by $100, that is $700m lost per month, and about 150,000 barrels expected are differed; we are not producing due to security challenges,” said Bala Wunti, group general manager of national Petroleum Investment Management Services.

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Last month, the state oil corporation NNPC stated that 700,000bpd of its exports were missing because thieves stole oil, and companies shut down operations in other locations to prevent thefts.

“Some of these pipeline vandals, when you stop production into a line, they call our members and threaten them, asking our members why they stopped production into the line and that they should open the line,” said Festus Osifo, president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). 

Industrial Strike Action 

Last week, an oil workers’ union expressed concern about the safety of its members and threatened to strike if the government does not take immediate action to combat oil theft.

“Our major challenge as a country is our capability to respond, and that is as a result of several factors, the terrain as well as some incapacity that we have,” an NNPC official said. 

In 2020, PENGASSAN issued a nationwide strike of oil workers over a pay dispute. Oil workers criticised the federal government for failing to take tangible steps to resolve the issue.

Oil employees associated with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources went on strike for three days in August 2020 in response to the government’s inability to pay their salaries for three months.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Unite the Union balloted over 300 offshore drilling and contract maintenance workers to gauge interest in strike action in August over pay disputes.