26 March 2017, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – A lecturer with the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Ben Naanen, says illegal refineries would be difficult to eradicate from Niger Delta, except the government deals with poverty, rehabilitation and empowerment of youths in the region.
Naanen, a former Provisional Council Chairman of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, also blamed the increase in illegal refineries and oil theft in the Niger Delta on the economic difficulties and poverty faced by the people in the area.
In a keynote address at the National Conference on Oil Theft and Illegal Artisanal Refineries in Nigeria, organised by a group, Social Action, in Port Harcourt, the renowned professor said oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products were done not only by the poor, but also by some rich politicians who could afford to manage the business with their resources and political strength.
According to him, “The fundamental issue in the problem of illegal refinery and oil theft is rooted in economy difficulties of the Niger Delta. And so without the government addressing the social economic challenge of the youth and generally, that of the region, it is going to be difficult to control it.
“You have to address that issue of unemployment and poverty, the lack of economic opportunities in the Niger Delta and also deal with the perception that they are not having ownership of the resources that comes from their land, that they have to become a part of the ownership of resources of their land and that is where resource control comes in.
“We have to create an enforcement regime that will discourage people from engaging in illegal refinery and oil theft. Before then, we have to distinguish between people who are stealing oil just because of capital accumulation and those that are motivated by poverty.
“Actually, a very large proportion of the oil that is stolen for export is not done by the people who are poor but people who have the resources and political capital to do the operation.”