After over four decades of pipeline vandalism, oil theft and establishment of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government had announced its plans in order to engage the restive youths of the region as well as beef up the availability of petroleum products for local consumption.
With a combined team of the Navy and the Airforce control, a helicopter fly over view revealed pockets of illegal refineries scattered around the creeks of the Niger Delta and the damage done to the ecosystem by the activities of suspected oil thieves.
According to naval sources, there are over 5,000 creeks in the region and many thousands more of illegal refineries and bunkering sites; a situation that continues to pose great risk to the economic and environmental development of the country.
During an earlier visit to Rivers state, aimed at achieving sustained peace and development in the Niger Delta, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, gave a picture of the government’s plan to change the narrative.
“We must admit that damage to pipelines and supply facilities is damage to infrastructure and it also affects gas supply. If we are unable to generate gas for power, then all our clamour for better power supply will come to nothing since there will be nothing to distribute.
“One thing that the federal government is committed to doing is changing the narrative of Nigeria, being major a country that exports crude and ensuring that all other sectors contribute their quota to the petroleum sector.
“That is why we will ensure that our refineries are up and running while also encouraging whole (modular) refineries and our fertiliser and petrochemical companies are working,” the VP said.
A Niger Delta youth leader and a former President of the Ijaw Youth Council worldwide, Elvis Donkemezuo, however, made a case for the operators of illegal refineries.
He held the opinion that the government should register the illegal refineries, instead of going after them and incorporate them in the plan for modular refineries.
Meanwhile, a mechanical engineer and an refinery expert, George Nkoyo, gave an analysis of the figures behind establishing modular refineries.
According to him, “it costs about 15,000 dollars to refine one barrel of crude oil, and if you are talking about modular refineries, you are talking about producing 5 to 10 thousand barrels per day. So, it cost about 150 million dollars to set up a refinery. As a business man, you can go to China to make it cheaper for 100 million dollars. So it is not a business for the weak-hearted – Perhaps those clamouring for licence have not taken time to do the feasibility studies.”
Amid several other opinions, the people await the government’s presentation of a blue print for the Niger Delta, with hopes that it will not end at the stage of mere discussions.