An executive of Nigerian National Petroleum Co (NNPC) recently revealed that oil thieves have started tricking Nigerian workers tricked into working in illegal refineries, according to This Day.

Bala Wunti, general manager at the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, a subsidiary of NNPC, said some of these workers were given fake employment letters as well. The company learned of this fake employment through routine investigations. 

“They gave [theives] them letters to come and work in modular refineries. The people they bring are people who don’t know what a refinery is,” Wunti said. 

“Almost 30-40% of them are just coming for daily job. They think [the employers] have the license to do what they are doing.”. 

In mid-September, NNPC announced that thieves continued to steal 470,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil. The loss resulted in Nigeria’s lowest daily average output since at least 1997, equating to $700m monthly, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). 

Then, last month, NNPC reported that 700,000bpd of its exports were missing due to theft. Several of its subsidiaries shut down operations in different locations to prevent further losses.

Azubuike Azubuike, a leader of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, held the government responsible for the thefts. He said: It is [happening] because there is no political will and it really goes to show us that there is no government that caters for the welfare of the people.”

Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria said on 20 September that crimes like crude oil theft amounts to treason as it affects the country’s revenue “enormously”, according to Reuters

He said: “The government’s response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason.”

At the same time, Wunti claims to have made significant improvements in collaboration with government security agencies in response to the theft problem. 

According to his statement, thieves threatened community leaders and senior citizens in the Niger Delta to prevent disclosure of their criminal activities. This caused some of the elders to leave their communities, says This Day

The Niger Delta sits directly on the Gulf of Guinea, feeding into the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria. The federal government recently announced the arrest of 210 suspects to combat oil theft in the region, according to the Premium Times

Wunti said the security agencies avoided aerial inspection of the illegal sites to minimise casualties, as military action could risk causing fire in the sites.