POLLUTION IN RIVERS STATE: Top Security Personnel Aiding Illegal Bunkering and Oil Refining – Report

Oru Leonard

Influential Nigerians and security personnel have been accused of aiding
oil theft, illegal and artisanal refining which is worsening soot (a deep black powdery or flaky substance consisting largely of amorphous carbon, produced by the incomplete burning of organic matter), pollution in Rivers communities and the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The expose is coming on the heels of an investigative report by the Cable Newspaper on how Rivers residents are dying slowly as a result
of illegal oil refining worsening soot pollution in the communities.

Speaking during PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO, the anti-corruption radio
program produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community
Development (PRIMORG), on Wednesday in Abuja, renowned broadcaster and
Executive Producer of Inside the Niger Delta, Felix Mamode Akugha
revealed that illegal refining of crude oil into petroleum products in Rivers State is a massive business backed by very influential, powerful political leaders, and top security commanders in the military.

Akugha, who stressed that the illegal refining of crude is a multibillion-naira industry, noted that it is done openly and employs over five hundred thousand youths with no attention paid to the debilitating health impacts on the residents.

He lamented that security personnel now lobby to be posted to Rivers
State and become millionaires in a space of six months as a result of
their involvement in the booming oil theft.

Akugha, however, recalled that Governor Nyesom Wike had in May 2019
alleged that the General Officer Commanding (GOC), of the 6 Division of
the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarhem was one of the Senior military officers promoting bunkering in the Niger Delta region.

His words: “The illegal refining business is a multi-billion-naira industry, it is something that is not hidden, it is very visible.
“Governments at all level have been incapacitated in trying to stop this
business because quite a lot of big people are involved in it, when I  mean big, I mean very influential, very powerful political leaders, military leaders are all involved in this business, and so it is
difficult to put a halt to it.
“They (oil bunkers) get the crude oil from pipelines, in other words the man who is put to guard something is the one that is taking from it.

There is nobody to stop it, the theft of Nigerian crude oil is alarming but is the government ready to do anything,” Akugha questioned.

Akugha who hails from the region also added that the illegally refined
products coming from the creeks (Petrol, Diesel and Kerosene) are loaded
in trucks and transported to different filling stations across Nigeria.


He noted that the establishment of modular refineries in the South-South
Nigeria, a promise hitherto made by the Federal Government would have
taken care of the ongoing corruption and health hazard from soot

Also reacting to the involvement of military personnel in oil theft and
illegal refining of crude in Niger Delta communities, the President of
Civil Liberty Organization (CLO), Igho Akeregha lamented the
collaborations, impunities and corruption by security officers involved
was costing Nigeria trillions of dollars.

Akeregha maintained that in the absence of political will to punish military or other security officers involved in the oil fraud means nothing will change.
“unless there is punishment, that’s where the political class will come in – nothing will change. The general in Port Harcourt in charge of the military garrison who has left his duties to get involved in illegal bunkering was not arrested nor prosecuted, how will you now tell me that another general who would probably be posted to the region wouldn’t do
the same.”

Akeregha called on the Federal Government and Military authorities to
tackle illegal bunkering by prosecuting officers aiding and abetting the
corruption, while commending PRIMORG for using their radio platform to strengthen the fabrics of the Nigerian society and consistently digging up corruption issues bugging the nation.
“The solution is to ensure people are punished for their crimes against
the state. The individuals appointed by the government to oversee and
protect the national welfare are the ones pillaging and looting it.
“The starting point here is that the Chief of Army Staff must be able as
a matter of national patriotism and duty punish officers involved in
bunkering, recall that general involved, court martial him, dismiss him,
and hand him over to the police for prosecution,” Akeregha advised.

In the extensive report by The Cable Newspaper, it was revealed that
citizens were falling to the health hazards posed by the dangerous soot
all over the air in Port Harcourt and its environs.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program
used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption
and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.


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