14 August 2014, Abuja — Bishop Lucius Ugorji, Chairman, Church and Society, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has urged the Federal Government to urgently address oil theft and illegal refineries issues in the country.
“Over time, worrisome revelations have been made on deliberate third party incursions into oil and gas facilities, resulting sometimes in avoidable fatalities to themselves and unsuspecting citizens. This will undermine the nations’ economy if not well addressed,” said Bishop Ugorji of the Catholic diocese of Umuahia.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion on “Oil Theft and Illegal/Artisan Refining” on Tuesday August 5 in Abuja the prelate stated that about 25 per cent of the stolen oil was sold and refined by local artisans whose less-effective measures of processing crude oil left high volumes of unrefined oil wastes, according to Nigeria’s The Guardian Newspaper.
He further noted that the wastes which were consistently dumped into the environment heavily polluted the waters and posed great threat to the ecosystem and welfare of Niger Deltans.
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Calabar, Joseph Ekuwem, in his speech, decried the spate of pollution in oil-producing communities and its effect on the people.
According to him, pollution arising from oil theft and illegal refining of oil has far worse impact on the environment and livelihood of the ordinary people than any other activity.
Ekuwem said that the inability of government to respond effectively to the menace by holding individuals, groups or compromised security officials involved in the shady deals accountable, was alarming.
He said that CBCN was aware that numerous culprits in the unwholesome business had been arrested overtime but that majority of them had not been prosecuted.
“The gap gives the impression that the government is either unable or unwilling to act to save the environment and the people that live in it. Artisanal refining is condemnable because it exposes the operators and other community members to unimaginable health risks in the short and long term,” he said.