Oil Theft Could Derail Oil Growth in Nigeria

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Theft in the Niger Delta may prevent Nigeria from meeting its ambitious goal of boosting oil output by 30% by 2020, according to oil officials there. An official from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said that theft and sabotage cost Nigeria an estimated 300,000 barrels of oil per day in lost production in 2013. If it were to meet its goal by the end of the decade, Nigeria would need to boost its oil output from 2.3 million bpd to 3 million bpd.

Andrew Yakubu of NNPC said that Nigeria has spent $91 million on upgrading security equipment and air surveillance, as reported by Bloomberg News. But ongoing theft has plagued Nigeria, which is Africa's largest oil producer.

Royal Dutch Shell was forced to shut down a major pipeline last month due to leakage and theft. Having long operated in the country, Shell has been the target of oil bandits and armed militias, which fund their operations by stealing oil from pipelines. The troubles in Nigeria were a major factor in profit declines for the oil giant, prompting the company to seek suitors to which it could sell the embattled pipeline.

For Nigeria, rich in oil and gas reserves, the challenge is how to ensure that oil development brings actual prosperity to average Nigerians. For a country with a GDP of about $424 billion, nearly two-thirds of its people live on less than a dollar per day. Millions of people are unemployed or underemployed. Corruption and unequal distribution of oil wealth has thus far meant that the majority of people are not benefiting from Nigeria's oil boom. This has fueled instability and anger toward oil operators.

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