Influential Nigerians and security personnel have been accused of aiding oil theft, illegal and artisanal refining which is worsening soot pollution in Rivers communities and the Niger Delta region.
The expose is coming on the heels of an investigative report by the TheCable 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 military.
Akugha, who stressed that the illegal refining of crude is a multi-billion-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 South-South Nigeria, a promise hitherto made by the Federal Government would have taken care of the ongoing corruption and health hazard from soot pollution.
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 Cable newspaper, it was revealed that citizens were falling to the health hazards posed by the dangerous soot all over the air in Portharcourt 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.