Nigeria probes sale to China of stolen 48m barrels of crude oil

Wednesday April 12 2023
Oil vessel

A vessel with stolen crude oil seized in Nigeria in October 2022. Nigerian lawmakers have begun a probe into the sale of stolen 48 million barrels of crude oil to China. PHOTO | NIGERIAN NAVY


Nigerian lawmakers have begun a probe into the sale of stolen 48 million barrels of crude oil to China.  

“It is quite alarming that illegal deals with China cost Nigeria $2.4 billion revenue loss from the sale of stolen 48 million barrels,” Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said in Abuja on Tuesday, at the opening of the ad hoc committee set up to probe the deals.  

He said Nigeria loses $700 million monthly to oil theft, a menace that impacts negatively on the country’s national budget. 

Read: Nigeria’s fuel shortage worsens

“Available data suggests that we may lose up to $23 billion to crude oil theft this year and between January and July last year, Nigeria lost $10 billion to the oil theft,” Gbajabiamila added.

He noted that the oil and gas sector remained the main contributors of Nigeria’s economy as it accounted for its 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of annual budgeted revenue. 


He further reported that Nigeria’s target of 1.88 million barrels of daily oil production in 2022 was not achieved as production dropped below 1 million barrels. 

With the high level of theft, he expressed doubt over the nation’s ability to meet its 2023 proposed daily oil production target of 1.69 million barrels. 

“Nigeria’s revenue to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is below five percent, which places the country among the five lowest in the world,” he said in a statement.   

2023 losses

Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Rtd Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno on December 6, 2022, reported that the nation may lose $23 billion in 2023 if crude oil theft continued. 

Read: Nigerian communities sue Shell for oil spills

He made the comment during the inauguration of a special investigation panel Nigeria’s government set up to check crude oil theft.

Monguno further said Nigeria currently produces one million barrels of crude oil per day against the two million barrels’ daily target by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) for 2022. 

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) in October 2022 said it was in cooperation with the country’s security forces to reduce theft. 

However, crude oil theft has become a norm and many security operatives have been accused of complicity in the dirty deals. 

Despite the heavy security in Nigeria waterways, illegal ships and vessels continue to ferry out oil. 

 Tantita Security Services, a newly contracted oil pipeline surveillance team which is an ex-Niger Delta militia group and mandated to conduct security operations in checking the menace, arrested a large vessel with stolen crude oil on October 6, 2022. 

The ex-militia group arrested the vessel alongside its seven-member on the creeks of Escravos as the crude oil was being pumped illegally, according to a report by Punch newspaper. 

About 600 to 650 cubic metres of illegally lifted crude oil in five compartments were said to be on board the vessel with registration number L85 B9.50, as of the time of the arrest. 

The Nigeria Navy personnel set the bunkering vessel ablaze on Warri River in South Delta State after the ship’s captain Temple Manasseh confessed that the vessel was laden with crude oil.