‘Unchecked crude oil theft fuels illegal artisanal refining’
Environmental stakeholders have blamed the unchecked rampant crude theft for the thriving of artisanal refinery activities, which now devastate the environment in the Niger Delta.
The stakeholders also noted that the continuing gas-flaring in the Niger Delta clearly underscores the failure of democratic institutions in the country to address the environmental challenges faced by oil-bearing communities in the region.
Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Prof. Roseline Konya, said the failure to address crude oil theft was the primary reason why those involved in illegal artisanal refining of petroleum products have continued to flourish and wrecking unfathomable environmental havoc in the region.
Konya, who was a special guest at the Nigerian Resource Justice Conference organised by Social Action in Port Harcourt yesterday, implored the Federal Government to expedite action that will end crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.
According to her, the Niger Delta environment must be preserved for the future generations.
Dr. Kenneth Aroh, who represented the Port Harcourt Zonal Director of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) at the conference, said that lack of legal framework to regulate the activities of illegal artisanal refining was making it difficult to hold anyone accountable for the oil-spill caused by them.
Also, Director, Social Action, Dr. Issac Osuka, said the conference with the theme “Petroleum and communities in the Niger Delta: Setting the policy agenda following two decades of civil rule” was necessitated by the desire to assess and review the ecological, human rights and livelihood crises in the Niger Delta.
Osuka, who regretted that 20 years after Nigeria transited from military to civil rule, oil firms have continued to operate recklessly in the region, urged President Muhammadu Buhari never to sign the Petroleum Industries Governance Bill because it contains many provisions that would undermine environmental regulations and increase corruption in petroleum sector.