By Elizabeth Chukwuma
The greedy oil dealers in the oil-rich rivers state will not under understand how their business empire of owning several artisanal refineries crumbled like a pack of wood overnight. For much of last year, Nyesom Wike, a former minister of Education during Goodluck Jonathan Administration and incidentally a one-time Chairman of Obiakpo-Local Government, had kept a close watch about the activities of the illegal refineries owners in Rivers. It was a matter of time for him to strike on them.
The governor may have known that there is no way he can win the battle of dislodging the Illegal bunkerers and refinery owners in the state. Alone locate all the illegal refinery sites without carrying the 23 Local government Chairman, along.
Some of the Council Chairmen are believed to be on the pay roll of the sponsors of the illegal refineries. As a prelude to getting the Council Chairmen involved, in destroying the illegal refineries found in their locality in order to make the rivers environment safe, he had a closed door meeting with them where he had promised to reward any Council Chairman who supports the government efforts to destroy illegal refinery sites found in their locality. The governor may have gladdened the heart of the Council bosses, when he announced provision of a N460 million as reward for the23 Council Chairmen, meaning that each of them has a share of N20 million if he or she performs to expectation.
With the cash reward of N20 million each to the Council Chairmen, may have encouraged them to hire bulldozers and destroy illegal crude oil bunkering and artisanal refinery found in their locality. The governor who has the backing of the Friday Eboka, the state Commissioner of Police, in the battle to clean up the Rivers environment may have known that there is no way there would be a major headway in destroying the illegal refineries with the Commander of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, still in the state as he has proved incapable of controlling the service personnel who are benefiing from the racket.
This may have informed Abubakar Audi, Commandant General, of the NSCDC, did not hesitate in disbanding the Anti-Vandal Unit of the state Command. In doing so, the NSCDC, boss had alluded to the fact that Wike, the Rivers state governor had accused’’ the Team of aiding and abetting pipeline vandals and illegal bunkerers to carry out thei rnefarious activities I the state’’.
The NSCDC helmsman, who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘’the extant rules and Regulations guiding its operations and the general ethics of the service requires complete display of total discipline , integrity and corruptibility, transparency and accountability in the part of every Corps personnel’’ , also informed the reason for his action.
The NCDC Commandant had gladdened the heart of the Rivers governor when he’’ assured him of ‘’getting to the root of the matter without further delay and promising more synergy with the state government towards discharging more effective service delivery to the people of the state’’.
Given the bad Advertisement of the former Commander of the Anti-Vandal Unit , and his Team in the state, the Commandant had reiterated that his Administration ‘’has come with renewed vigour to reposition the service in line with best global best practices and will not condone any act of indiscipline, compromise, sabotage under any guise by any personnel no matter how highly placed’’.
Many had expected Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and the Eboka, the state CP, to take a cue from the Commandant , NSCDC, who had disbanded the Anti-Vandal Unit of the service at the prompting of the governor, to also redeploy the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, of Emoha LGG, accused by the governor of being involved in the illegal activities in the Emoha LGA.
With the total clean- up of the NSCDC Anti-Vandal Unit in the state and appointment of a new Commander, many knew that the sponsors of the illegal refineries in the state are in trouble. Barely one week after the governor had asked the Force ‘’to Collaborate with Heads of other Security Agencies in the state , Council Chairmen and Traditional Rulers to fish out those involved in illegal bunkering in their locality some illegal refinery discoveries were said to have been made.
, one or two of the Council Chairmen, were said to have come up to the governor to brief him about the discoveries in their locality. The Council Chairmen were said to have discovered 112 illegal refineries. One of them was Samuel Nwanosike, Chairman of Ikwrre, home Local government of Rotimi of Rotimi Amaechi, a for governor of River and minister of Transportation under the present Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General. Another person was the Chairman of Emohua, LGA.
The governor may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that 99% of the discoveries were made in a particular Community located along the OML 17 Trunk Lines allegedly in EmuohUa LGA, described as a home of the Greedy bunkering and refinig plants sponsours . Appealing to other Council Chairmen who were from the riverine Areas, to take a cue from their Counterparts in the Upland Council areas,he urged them to go ahead and hire bulldozers and to clear the Creeks of the illegal bunkering activities in their locality and apply to the state government for refund. He was emphatic on the distribution of the N460 million provision : Each Council Chairman , at least have N20 million, for a start to hire the equipment to work.
Prior to the discoveries of more illegal bunkering and artisanal refineries in Ikwerre and Emuohua LGAs in the state, the Rivers governor , accompanied by Eboka, the state CP, and other security Chiefs in the state , had inspected two illegal refining sites at the flashpoint Emoha LGA, that was discovered uncovered by the Chairman.
Informed sources told The Magazine that the Ikwerre Council Chairman, and his Emuohua Counterpart who hired bulldozers as directed by the governor to destroy illegal refineries found in their locality have already applied for refund forcing others,who are yet to make any appreciable impact to intensify efforts in the search for illegal bunkering sites and artisanal refineries in their locality, in order to benefit also from the fund.
It is interesting to note that many of the big boys in PortHarcourt who own the illegal bunkering sites and artisanal refineries in the state were said to be on the run to avoid playing into the hands of the security operatves, who are said to be everywhere in the state. Already, the governor has ordered the arrest of those allegedly sponsoring the operation of the illegal refining in the state, some of them were said to be prominent businessmen in the Niger Delta state.
The manhunt for the sponsors of the illegal refineries in Rivers state may have forced the troops of Operation Delta Safe into action. In the last one month, the troops were said to have discovered and destroyed 39 illegal refining sites , 91 cooking ovens, 24 reservoirs, 17 large dugpot units and 36 storage tanks in the region.
Bernard Onyeuko, an Army Major General and Director, Defence Media Operations, had said that a total of 637,500 litres of stlen crude oil was recovered in the course of the operations in some villages and towns in Emohua, Ikwerre, PortHarcourt, Opobo, and Ahoada Councils of Rivers state alone.
Other locations are some towns and villages in Warri South, Warri South-West, and Warri North Councils of Delta state including Southern Ijaw, of Bayelsa state. The troops operations in Mbo LGA, of Akwa Ibom, home state of Godswell Akpbabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state and now minister of the Niger Delta and Ukwa West in Abia state wwere said to have also yielded results within the period during the operations.
Recall that last December, the Operation Delta Safe troops, had discovered and destroyed 69 illegal refining sites in different parts of the Niger Delta region. According to Onyeuko, the Director,Defence Headquarters, Media Informations, the sites were laden with 2.1 million litres of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, as well as 1.300 tons and 4.5 million barrels of stolen crude oil, awitingtobe refined trough the crude process .