By Umar Muhammad Puma
The House of Representatives mandated its joint Committees to interface with relevant security agencies on destruction of illegal refineries.
The committees are Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream), Environment, Habitat, Army, Navy, Interior, Niger Delta and Legislative Compliance.
The committees and security agencies will ensure that officials of relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are involved in the process of destroying illegal refineries and boats laden with petroleum products in the country.
This resolution followed a motion movec by Rep. Owoidighe Ekpoattai (Akwa/Ibom-PDP) on the “need for security agencies to involve experts in the destruction of illegal refineries and boats laden with petroleum products to prevent environmental degradation.”
Moving the motion, Ekpoattai said the process will guarantee retrieval of stolen crude oil, avoid spillage, either on land or water as well as minimize economic losses and avoid pollution and degradation of the environment.
She explained that the increase in illegal oil refineries in the creeks of the Niger Delta had become alarming.
The lawmaker said that the increase also added a new twist to the economic and security challenges confronting the nation, even with the plan of turning them to modular refineries.
Ekpoattai explained that the quest to acquire crude oil illegally by non-professionals was devastating the environment, destroying wild and aquatic lives as well as stunting the economic development of the nation.
She stressed that this had resulted in an estimated loss of 10.9 billion dollars between 2009 and 2011.
“Section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides that the State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air, land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria while section 2 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, Cap E12, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 also provides for restriction on public or private projects without prior consideration of their impact or effects on the environment,’’ she said.
She emphasised that in a bid to curb the menace of illegal refineries, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Navy had collectively destroyed at least 280 illegal refineries.
She added that they had collectively destroyed barges loaded with petroleum products and secured the conviction of 40 perpetrators out of the 118 arrests made in the last one year in the Niger Delta region.
Ekpoattai expressed concern that in spite of the commendable efforts of the various security agencies to curb the menace of illegal refineries, the methods adopted in the destruction of those refineries endangered the environment of the region.
She said it also had negative effect on the general health and well-being of the people because of wastes emanating from the destroyed refineries and barges washed into the creeks and the ocean.
According to her, failure by security agents to involve experts in carrying out the destruction of the refineries poses environmental hazards just as the existence and operation of those illegal refineries themselves.
Supporting the motion, Rep. Henry Ofongo (Bayelsa-PDP) said that soldiers, who were not experts in engineering, environmental or petroleum issues destroying the illegal refineries were causing more harm and damage to the affected areas.
He said that such operations should be strictly carried out by professionals and not any other individual or groups.
Also in her contribution, Rep. Joan Mrakpor (Delta-PDP) argued that the motion was timely because since the military carry out its operations every other day, it was good to take precaution now to avoid causing other hazards to the people in the oil region.
Deputy speaker, Mr Yussuff Lasun in his contribution advocated for the engagement of those running legal refineries in the Niger Delta in the process.
He said that this will enable them come out with better ways of making use of the refineries instead of destroying them.
The motion was unanimously adopted when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.