Wike declares war against oil bunkering sites, illegal refineries
Illegal or artisanal refiners and bunkering operators in some localities were surprised to find the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, at the sites of their operations, though backed by a swat of heavily armed security operatives.
The governor took a long walk through the track roads into the forest of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area, and the forest of Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area, with Eboka Friday, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, and other security chiefs, to uncover some crude oil illegal refining sites.
This was seen as the governor launched a total onslaught against bunkering and illegal refining that have caused heavy soot in the state capital in particular leading to outcries.
Medical sources had warned the state that mass death was ahead if nothing was done to stop the soot menace and pollution.
At one of the sites, according to Kelvin Ebiri, the governor’s special assistant on media, Gov Wike vowed not to spare anyone involved in either illegal bunkering or artisanal refinery activities that have caused the soot pandemic in the State.
Wike maintained that his administration would not succumb to any form of blackmail or sentiment that would be stirred by those perpetrators in an attempt to frustrate efforts at curbing such hazardous business.
The governor may be referring to some of the arrested operators who told newsmen that they were not criminals but that they had worked for top politicians in government in the past, a claim that has not been verified.
Gov Wike stated: “They can’t be doing this and killing my people. No reasonable government will allow that. And I can tell you with all due respect, we will take this matter very seriously.
“Look at how, daily in your house, you see the soot. I mean, how can you allow that? So, this one that we can solve, we will solve it. We have assured the people of Rivers State, we will fight this matter to the last until I leave office.”
Wike noted that confronting this seeming cartel kind of business will not be easy. But, he has, however, vowed to consider it as a war-like situation and fight it from the standpoint of the law.
According to the governor, no matter how highly placed the perpetrators maybe, they will not be spared, but confronted, apprehended and be made to face the full force of the law.
Governor Wike has therefore directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, professor, Zacchaeus Adangor (SAN), to take over the case files of illegal crude oil refinery operators arrested by the police.
“Attorney General, I don’t want any compromise anywhere. And then too, it will not be on the ministry. You have to constitute a legal team. Go and get our friends all over the country so that we can execute this prosecution to the last.
“It is a serious matter. And I’m going to take it head-on. In fact, it is a war. It is not poor people doing this, they’re a cartel. You must go and arrest these people; Chief W. J. Wocha, you must arrest Fubara Ohaka, and Promise Ezekwe. You must arrest them.
“It doesn’t matter how highly placed you are. If you like to be the paramount ruler. In fact, any traditional ruler that is involved, picks him for me. Let him understand that the law does not respect anybody.”
Speaking further, Gov Wike directed the Emohua Council chairman, Chidi Lloyd, to locate residences where processed crude oil products are stored and let the people ascertain their sources.
Gov Wike said the purpose of confronting this havoc is to ensure that the health of Rivers people is not further hampered by those illegal refining activities.
“If not, our people will continue to die. Even you, you’re not safe from related sicknesses like cancer. All those products in the houses; you must go after them, they must tell you where they got the products. Enough is enough.
“Look at what is happening, they are dying. I want to live, so we must stop this illegal refinery activity.
“And I have said to the Federal Government, if you’re not willing to do anything, don’t promise people anything. You told them that you will do something, how can you promise a modular refinery.
“What I’m talking about is the safety of Rivers people. That is more important to me.”
Explaining the ugly experience community people had suffered, the chairman of Emohua Local government area, Lloyd, noted that the problem of illegal refining activities in the area is beyond the capacity of the council to handle.
He wondered why the Federal Government which once promised to establish modular refineries in the Niger Delta region has reneged on that promise.
“Thank God for your boldness. Rivers people are now aware. On a daily basis, people roast and burn here. The whole Ibaa community has been taken over by this trade.
“And when you talk, they say look, if they don’t do this, they’ll go to the roads and begin to carry arms. And I say to them, you don’t dig a hole to cover another hole. Your business shouldn’t kill me.”
Earlier, the Ikwerre Local Government Chairman, Samuel Nwanosike, conducted the Governor around illegal oil refining site at Ogbodo-Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government area.