BusinessDay

Illegal refineries owners live large in Port Harcourt – Researcher

... ‘Those behind illegal refining are in posh hotels in PH’

When a Uniport Professor of History and top researcher as well as environmental academic activist, Ben Naanen, unveiled the interim part of his SPDC-sponsored research in oil theft, pipeline vandalism and illegal refining, the chairman of Emuoha local council area, Chidi Lloyd PhD, was there.

The professor caused tension when he revealed huge loss to the economy through the menace (as high as N60 trillion per year).

The council boss who has led series of forays in the forests in search of illegal refiners added a pitch that caused more fear. He squarely put the blame on leadership and said “We have failed, leadership has failed”.

Luckily, Governor Nyesom Wike launched a crackdown on kpofire in recent times and much has been revealed, yet, insiders say what has been destroyed is less than half of the reality, and the boys would rebuild.

“This kind of lecture deserves larger audience, somewhere like a stadium for the masses to see. People do not seem to bother, and that raises question as to what our values are,” Lloyd said.

“We have failed. It only reminds me of my experience while in prison where I was made to read Chinua Achebe’s ‘There was a Country’. It helped me to look at what we were and what we are now.

“Now, people do what they like and cause mass death. Money seems to mean everything to people now. I am in the forefront of the war against illegal refining.”

Read also: Nigeria loses over N60trn annually to oil theft, illegal refining- report

Kpofire vs new violent crime:

People tend to say stopping illegal refining is causing a spike in violent crimes. Should mass death continue?

Note that those who arranged illegal refining are found in lush hotel rooms in Port Harcourt. Those in the bush and those that roast are the foot-soldiers.

We all are shouting over the Egbema oil explosion that killed over 100 persons. Look, the area did not just spring up overnight. They did not just come in one day. The place was a lonely spot in the forest which was gradually built into a serious colony for illegal refining. Where were government and security agencies all this while?

My experience

The DPO that was going round with me from forest to forest fighting the oil thieves was busy at same time setting up 15 oil bunkering centres. So, what are our values? Do parents still care?

There is high level collaboration by the police, Civil Defence Corps, the State Security Service, etc. I, at a point, became highly uncomfortable and suspicious going into the forests with policemen. Local chiefs donate parcels of land as their investment?

Government, at the national level, too, has failed because it can no more look evil people in the face because what has government provided for the youths as alternative?

Illegal refining has emerged as a huge business and people now borrow funds from banks to prosecute it. It has become a bankable project. Banks now lend to them. It brings quick returns. The war is on, and they fight back.

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