By Stephen Ubanna
For years, the Niger Delta states of Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta, have been a home bunkering kingpins and Illegal refineries operators. The bunkering Kingpins and illegal petroleum operators who were said to have penetrated the security agencies enjoy their escort services. Nyenson Wike, governor of Rivers state, with the support of Eboka Friday, the state Commissioner of Police, has beamed his searchlight on the Bunkering kingpins and illegal refinery sites in the state to fish out their sponsors over the last couple of months.
The Rivers state governor had accused Lt. General Farouk Yahaya led Nigerian Army and Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, controlled Navy and the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, under the close watch of Usman Alkali Baba, of actually proving the escort services to the bunkerers and the illegal refinery sponsors that are scattered all over the state.
Acting on security reports, the Rivers state governor has declared 19 persons in the state wanted for operating illegal Crude refining sites which are said to be responsible for ‘’the black soot menace in the state’’. Alrady, the Rivers state government officials and security personnel are getting closer to stopping the activities of the bunkerers and illegal refinery sponsors as he had he demanded that the Head of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, overseeing the Ant-pipelines Vanalism Unit, in the state, should be removed by the relevaant agency Authorities.
Aware that the illegal refinery operators have made so much money with their security agencies Collaborators who are ready to fight back, now that the 2023, general elections is just around the corner, may have informed why he has assured’’ the people of the state that there was no cause for alarm as the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, government in the state is determined ‘’to effectively tackle the soot menace by destroying and closing down all the identified illegal Crude Oil sites and activities across the state’’.
Describing the 19 kingpins of bunkering and illegal Crude Oil refining activities in the state’’, as worse than the activities of the Islamic Fundamental Groups, BokoHaram and the Islamic state of the West African Province, ISWAP, operating in the north east region and the Bandits Group, operating in the north west states of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Katsina, home state of Buhari,and the north central state of Niger may have encouraged him to reassure the people of the state that there was ‘’no cause for alarm’’.
As a prelude to ensuring that Bunkering and illegal refining activities in the state would no long thrive may have informed why he has announced a cash reward of two million naira to the Local Government Chairmen in the state who are able ‘’to identify the Bunkering and illegal refining sites in their localities’’.
The governor who is determined to get rid of the Bunkerers and the illegal refinery sponsors in the state, was said to have given a ‘’48 hours ultimatum to the 23 Council Chairmen I the state and ‘’to identify the illegal refineries sponsors in their respective Local Government Areas or risk losing their exalted office’’.
Many believe that Wike, may have come hard on the Bunkering kingpins and illegal refinery sponsors in the state because of the recent explosion at Rumuekpe Community in the Emuoha Local Government where five suspected illegal oil bunkers were said to have been killed as well as the fumes from an illegal oil dum in Oduoha Community , also in Emooha LGA. The most worrisome was the death of the death of a family of six personsin Mgbede Community, in Ogba/ Egbema/Ndoni, LGA, of the oil Rivers state.
An aggrieved Wike had said that ‘’it has become necessary to prosecute the Bunkering kingpins and the illegal refining sponsors caught in the Act ‘’to contain the menace of soot pollution which has continued to endanger public health in the Niger Delta state’’. Perhaps to clip the wing of the Bunkering kingpins and illegal refinery operators, the Rivers state Chief Security Officer may have taken a cue from Matawalle Bello, governor of Zamfara, who has faced the heat of the Bandits Group, described as ‘’a state within a state’’ by Senator Shehu Sani, to place ‘’a total ban on the use of motorcycles in Obio-Akpo LGA, where he had at one time served asone-time Chairman and PortHarcourt LGA, Area Council because of the collective threat to lives and property.
Indeed, with what is happening Rivers state where Wike had clamped down on Bunkering kingpins and illegal refinery operators, Senator Diouye Diri, governor of Bayelsa, home state of former President Goodluck Government, may have taken a cue from his Rivers state Counterpart to clamp down on the economic saboteurs as he was said to have warned those from the neighbouring state planning’’ to relocate to the state to escape Police arrest to steer clear as it may be too favourable for them. The Bayelsa state governor was aid to have set up a standing Committee ‘’to arrest and prosecute anyone in the illicit business’’. Security experts had said that governor Diri has no reason to vilify the sister state over the activities of the Bunkering kingpins and the illegal refinery operators when Bayelsa state was actually their home state.
The activities of the Bunkering kingpins and illegal refinery sponsors may have become so worrisome that Temipre Silver, a former governor of Bayelsa and now minister of state, Petroleum Resources, had said that’’ the Licensing and establishment of Modular refineries would go a long way ‘’to end the bunkering and illegal Crude Oil refining activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region’’.
This may have informed why the The Katsina state born Nigerian President who is worried about the activities of the kingpins and the increasing number of illegal refining sites in the south-south region had restated its commitment ‘’to encourage both local and foreign nvestors to key into its plans to grant operational License for the establishment of modular refineries. Despite series of arrests by the Nigerian Joint Task Force personnel, the bunkering kinfpins and illegal refinery owners have continued in the nefarious activities due to perceieved pecuniary interests.
The minister is optimistic that the completion of the modular refineries that have been licensed by the government, would force the bunkering kingpins and illegal refining operators who had continued in the business quit for fear of being arrested and subsequent prosecution. He had cited the Waltersmith Petrolman Oil Limited. Modular refinery, with a capacity to process 5000 barrels of crude oil per day, located at Ibigwe, in Ohaji/Egbema, LGA, of Imo state, which had been commissioned by the Nigerian President.
He had also cited the construction of the Brass modulary refinery that has beenestablished by the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development,NOGICD, Act, in partnership with the Atlantic International Refinery ltd and several others.
In 2020, alone, the Nigerian Navy, The Value News was informed, had closed down 577 of such illegal refineries in the region. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives, NETTI, in one its reports had said that the Bunkering kingpins and the illegal refinery operators have may become very attractive to unemployed Youths in that they are ready to do an thing to protect their facilities and ensure that the business is running non- stop.
The NETTI reports further shows that’’ half a million people in the region have gained employment in these illegal refining facilities that dotted the nooks and crannies of the region. in the region.