Pipeline vandalism in the Niger delta costs the state and oil companies $14b a year and devastated up to 52,000 hectares of land in 2014, according to new estimates by a leading Nigerian research and development group, The Guardian reported.

According to a Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) report, the scale of pipeline vandalism – which sees infrastructure tapped to steal crude oil – has now reached epidemic proportions. re tapped to steal crude oil – has now reached epidemic proportions. The government’s National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency (Nosdra) recorded more than 900 sabotage incidents last year across the 12,700km of pipes belonging to local and international companies.

In some cases, the pipelines are deliberately “cracked” to create work.

SDN said that the way to stop the damage is not by militarising the volatile region but by providing jobs to unemployed youths and giving communities a share in legitimate oil profits.

The organisation said that enormous sums of money are earned from illicit trade of stolen oil, often settled through cash and arm deals, fuelling a cold war between entrenched actors and the state, Daily Trust reported.