By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Key stakeholders from the coastal Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State, where ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), hails from have met with the federal government officials to prepare the ground for participation in the new policy to introduce modular refineries in the Niger Delta.
The team from Gbaramatu led by the former Chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Chief Wellington Okirika, according to THISDAY checks, insisted on the establishment of a plant to be called the Gbaramatu Modular Refinery (GMR) in the town.
Along with other Gbaramatu indigenes, Okirika also reportedly met with the government delegation in company with Missouri American Energy, an American investor.
Gbaramatu is a major hotbed of militancy in the region.
Aside the President of the company, Mr. Henry Iwenofu, also present at the meeting which took place in Abuja, were Dr. Chike Okechukwu, Alfred Okeke, and Mr. Howard Wegman of Community Capital Group, Canada.
The minister was said to have told the delegation that President Muhammadu Buhari was deeply worried over the huge environmental degradation and environmental pollution associated with illegal refining of petroleum products in the region.
President Buhari’s representatives also said the federal government had taken a decision to encourage the establishment of modular refineries to encourage local refining.
“The president is so concerned about the Niger Delta environment and has assured the ministries and all its agencies of his readiness to ensure that some of the bureaucratic requirements needed for the establishments of such refinery would be relaxed.
“This is so that foreign investors like Missouri American Energy and Community Capital Group of Canada can be encouraged to do business under the new dispensation,” Kachikwu said at the occasion.
He was represented by Mr. Rabiu Suleiman, Executive Director/Coordinator Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Refining, Downstream and Infrastructural Development.
The minister said the federal government was looking at ways on how the Niger Delta can be encouraged to do legitimate petroleum refining business without hurting the environment.
He added: “Federal government is very pleased with Gbaramatu Kingdom for organising themselves and coming up with such a laudable and achievable partnership programme, and most especially keying into the federal government programme.
“This programme is aimed at discouraging local and crude method of refining petroleum products that have far-reaching environmental implications in our ecosystem and which can further address youth restiveness and militancy.
“These are the most serious investors that we have seen in recent times and we would be happy to see that this pioneer modular refinery in Niger Delta come into reality.”
Earlier, Okirika, who heads the Gbaramatu Oil and Gas Producing Trust Fund (GOGPTF), promoter of the project, told the federal government that the group comprises major oil and gas producing communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Escravos and Warri South West Local Council.
He said the communities have eight flow stations, including Jones Creek, Odidi I and Odidi II Egwa I and Egwa II and all former SPDC flow stations, now being operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
Others which fall within Gbaramatu kingdom, he said, were Abiteye, Otunana and Makaraba flow stations, operated by the American oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited.
According to Okirika, the 20,000 barrels per day production facilities will encourage grassroots development and enhance the peace process in the Niger Delta.
It was learnt that already, the project site has been surveyed and cleared while feasibility studies and “bankable business plans” have been prepared by Financial Bridge, Miami, United States of America.
The President, Missouri American Energy Moham, Iwenofu, said t $200 million had been earmarked for the take-off of the fabrication and installation of modular refinery components in the USA and Nigeria.
He added that $200 million was also available for infrastructural development within the area of operations.
“All Missouri American Energy Moham needs is a friendly business environment with governmental policies and programmes that will enable the refinery strive and achieve its desired objectives,” he said.
Senior Special Adviser to Okirika, Mr. Monday Whiskey, who confirmed the meeting, listed others who were present during the talks as Special Adviser to Delta State Government on Petroleum Matters, Bosin Ebikeme.
He disclosed that other notable leaders of Gbaramatu Kingdom, including Chief Alfred Makaraba Bubor, Col. Sache Etoromi (rtd) and all community chairmen leaders and representatives of all oil bearing communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom were present during the negotiations.