11 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – The Director, Directorate of Modular Refineries-Institute of the Environment, has described as insensitive, the approach by the Presidency in handling the issue of artisanal oil refineries in the Niger Delta, alleging that the concept of modular refinery has been hijacked by political elites in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently announced that 10 modular refineries were at advanced stage of development in the region, stating that the refineries are located in five out of the nine states in the Niger Delta, namely Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Imo states.
Reacting, the Director, Directorate of Modular Refineries-Institute of the Environment, Mr. Pat Obiene, said apart from Delta state, other states mentioned by the vice president were not highly-impacted states when juxtaposed with Rivers and Bayelsa states, which, he said, have unimaginable level of crude oil theft and illegal refining activities based on available security reports and statistics.
Obiene, speaking to our correspondent, explained that the original intention of the federal government to replace illegal refineries with modular refineries was to ameliorate the plight of oil communities in the Niger Delta, by ensuring that the oil communities have a stake in the modular refineries.
He said it was regrettable that the real category of oil community investors ( artisan refiners) who require sufficient sensitisation, mobilisation and re-orientation as they form their various companies to apply to DPR for license through collective efforts, have been sidelined by the political elites.
The Niger Delta activist further explained that the creek boys would be adamant in their illicit operations, since they will not benefit from any of the ten refineries announced by the federal government.
He said: “The campaign to replace the illegal artisan crude oil refining with modular refining equipment over the years in order to save the environment and government resources led the Vice President, then acting President, during his visit to Niger Delta to find solutions, to declare on the 13th of February, 2017 in Rivers State that the government will engage boys in the creeks on how they can be doing it legally,
“More so, in March, 2017, the Presidency referred NDDC to organise registered artisan crude oil operators either as co-operatives or consortium and the federal government will mobilise funds for them. Yet at the moment, the presidency is saying funds is the major challenge at the same time celebrating ten modular refineries in the making for their fraternal elites.
“So, we can see that the whole concept of this Niger Delta Modular refineries programme that should evolve around this category of artisan refiners have been hijacked by NDDC political elites. I think DPR is largely responsible for this fundamental insensitivity by creating an all comers affair in their new policy, allowing elites to, in the guise of public/private investors, occupy the economic space meant for the real guys in the creeks.”
Obiene, who is also a community development consultant in the Niger Delta, wondered the degree of economic peace and stability that would be achieved in the region, especially since these 10 modular refineries are not owned and operated by those actually residing along the creek oil pipeline and doing their artisan refining across the oil communities.
He further said that the Federal agencies – Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC – which Osinbajo tasked to ensure that the oil communities have some stakes in the modular refineries will not follow the directive, as letters sent by the institute to the two bodies since August 2017 have not been replied till date.
“We are shocked that the Vice President at the level of his intelligence and divine composure, will allow himself drift from his initial vision and words on the 13th February, 2017 concerning the actual reason for declaring the modular refineries; even if it is expected to be an open market but some diplomacy is necessary in this circumstance of fixing the guys in the creeks first.
“Many of them (artisanal refiners) I interacted with, are losing confidence daily in the federal government plans to give them modular refineries, because they have come to the realisation that non of them are beneficiaries, hence the adverse effect is that they are emboldened to continue their oil theft and illegal refining, while innocent community people continue to suffer dearly for it. The nation’s coffers is miserably depleted.
“I am reliably informed that Amakpe Refinery one of the said ten modular refinery coming to Akwa Ibom, the NDDC MD Mr Nsima Ekere has interest in it. So how do you expect these agencies to develop a model that will carry along the actual crude oil communities affected by activities of illegal artisan crude oil refining?” Obiene queried.