Despite protestations and plea that the task is beyond their capacity, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has handed the task of dislodging kpofire operations to traditional rulers.
He has urged them not to allow illegal crude oil artisanal refining (kpo-fire) activities to take place in their domains anymore.
Gov Wike gave the charge at a meeting he had with traditional rulers in the State at the Banquet Hall of Government House in Port Harcourt on Friday.
The meeting was also attended by heads of the security agencies and chairmen of the twenty three Local Government Areas of the State.
Gov Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal refinery activities are sabotaging the national economy. He regretted that the Federal Government which controls the oil industry and the security agencies has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it is inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.
“I should think that the way federal government intends to fight insurgency, is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is a sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage. It affects our own revenue.
“If we are supposed to produce 2 million barrels for example, we are now producing 1.2 million. And in that 1.2 million barrels, It affects Rivers state because we are not producing up to the number we are supposed to produce, and then we can’t get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”
The governor also said illegal oil crude refinery activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer related illnesses in the State. According to him, his primary concern is to ensure that the health of residents of the State is not jeopardised.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business. My business is the health of my people. I will not because the federal government is not interested to stop it, therefore my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern.”
The governor, therefore urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDC) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domain.
Governor Wike, berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they are not very committed to the fight to stop the operations.
He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly be involved in sabotaging the national economy.
“I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that is going on in this State.”
Governor Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army major was providing exist services to illegally refined petroleum products and had to send security personnel to thwart this.
“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”
The governor declared that his administration will not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal refinery activities.
Governor Wike frown at the inability of the Nigerian Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha, Fubara Ohaka and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
He said the names of all indicted persons will be published soon and they will be declared wanted.