.As lawmakers urge licensing of more refiners
The Federal Government said it plans to establish three modular refineries in each of the oil producing states, particularly in the Niger Delta region.
Accordingly, the government would establish about 18 refineries in six major oil producing states in the Niger Delta including Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo and Cross River, according to the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor.
This follows an earlier call by the House of Representatives for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), to issue licences to companies that are capable of operating refineries in the country.
The lawmakers believe the move will help to curb the activities of illegal refineries that are causing the current black soot being experienced in Rivers State.
Explaining the rationale for setting up the 18 refineries, the Minister, in a statement on Wednesday, disclosed that the objective is to halt illegal artisanal refining activities going on in oil producing areas and its attendant negative impact on residents.
Ikeazor was quoted: “In a bid to find alternative sources of livelihood for artisanal refiners and to encourage them to disengage completely from their illegal activities, the Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and other critical stakeholders, are working on the establishment of three modular refineries per state in the oil producing areas as a pilot scheme to engage them (artisanal refiners).
“These modular refineries are intended to be 100 per cent designed and manufactured in Nigeria using the expertise of government institutions such as the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal University of Petroleum Effurun, and Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
“Others include the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Nigerian Content Development and Management Board, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, etc.”
Training artisanal refiners
Ikeazor informed that part of the plan also includes training the artisanal refiners on environmental management, including skills required for oil spill management and remediation.
She continued: “The main objective is to enable those participating in illegal/artisanal oil refining to transit into operation of modular refineries to be run legitimately as a business under proper technical, commercial and environmental regulation.
“It is also the intention of government that other artisanal refiners that cannot be absorbed in the pilot modular refineries will be congregated into business clusters and the Alternative Livelihood Fund in the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project be utilised to set up businesses for them, especially on the management on spent oil to engage them.
“These measures will help to drastically reduce the menace of artisanal refining, oil theft and pipeline vandalism to the benefit of our environment and bring prosperity to the oil host communities in the Niger Delta and to our nation at large.”
According to her, the menace of artisanal refining, oil theft and pipeline vandalism were largely responsible for the devastating degradation of the Nigerian environment, especially in the Niger Delta region.
“In fact, the much talked about Port Harcourt soot is caused by the activities of artisanal refineries due to the indiscriminate ‘cooking’ of stolen crude oil which releases very thick black smoke into the atmosphere, and later settles on surfaces as soot,” she added.
To address this menace, the Minister said the National Oil Spill and Response Agency (NOSRA) annually embarked on sensitisation campaigns to host communities in the oil producing states.
The main objective is to enable those participating in illegal/artisanal oil refining to transit into operation of modular refineries to be run legitimately as a business under proper technical, commercial and environmental regulation.
Curbing illegal refineries
In a resolution by the House, following a motion of urgent public importance moved by Uyime Idem (Akwa-Ibom) on Tuesday, said the activities of the illegal refineries are causing negative impacts on the economy and health of Rivers State’s residents.
Idem said: “Illegal activities have sabotaged economic activities of residents of the area, caused severe health hazards on citizens, robbed the country of critical revenue, and aggravated the problem of pollution in the region
“Some security agencies and some influential individuals have been alleged of complicity in the activities of these illegal refineries in the Niger Delta region of the Country.”
Soot in Rivers
Recall that for several years running, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and its environs have been experiencing black soot, for which the Governor Nyesom Wike attributed to the activities of illegal refineries.
In his New Year address to the residents of the state, Wike also accused security operatives of being in cohort with the illegal operators.
He had therefore charged all local government chairmen to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites.