Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
To match his words with action, the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike yesterday, stormed the forests of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area where he uncovered some crude oil illegal refining sites.
The governor has therefore, vowed not to spare anyone involved in the illegal bunkering and artisanal refinery activities that have caused the soot pandemic in the State.
Wike maintained that his administration would not succumb to any form of blackmail or sentiment that will be stirred by perpetrators in an attempt to frustrate efforts at curbing such hazardous business.
The governor said: “They can’t be doing this and be killing my people. No reasonable government will allow that. And I can tell you with all due respect, we will take this matter very seriously.”
“Look at how, everyday, in your house, you see the soot. I mean, how can you allow that?
So, this one that we can solve, we will solve it.
“We have assured the people of Rivers State, we will fight this matter to the last until I leave office.”
Wike noted that confronting cartel in the illegal crude oil business will not be easy. But vowed to consider it as a war like situation and fight it from the standpoint of the law.
According to the governor, no matter how highly placed the perpetrators may be, they will not be spared, but confronted, apprehended and be made to face the full force of the law.
Wike directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, to take over the case files of illegal crude oil refinery operators arrested by the police.
“Attorney General, all these matters with the police, you have to retrieve the files so that you can prosecute the matters on our own. I don’t want any compromise anywhere.
“And then too, it will not be on the ministry. You have to constitute a legal team. Go and get our friends all over the country. So that we can execute this prosecution to the last.
“It is a serious matter. And I’m going to take it head on. In fact, it is a war. It is not poor people doing this, they’re a cartel. You must go and arrest these people; Chief W. J. Wocha, you must arrest Fubara Ohaka, and chief Promise Ezekwe. You must arrest them.
“It doesn’t matter how highly placed you are. If you like be the paramount ruler. In fact, any traditional ruler that is involved, pick him for me. Let him understand that the law does not respect anybody.”
The governor further directed the Emohua Council chairman, Dr Chidi Lloyd, to locate residences where processed crude oil products are stored and let the people ascertain their sources.
“The purpose of confronting this havoc is to ensure that the health of Rivers people is not further hampered by those illegal refining activities. If not our people will continue to die. Even you, you are not safe from related sicknesses like cancer. All those products in the houses.You must go after them, they must tell you where they got the products. Enough is enough.
“Look at what is happening they are dying. I want to live. So, we must stop this illegal refinery activities.
“And I have said to the federal government, if you are not willing to do anything, don’t promise people anything. You told them that you will do something, how can you promise modular refinery.
“What I’m talking about is the safety of Rivers people. That is more important to me.”
Chairman of Emohua Local government area, Lloyd, who explained experience community people had suffered, noted that the problem of illegal refining activities in the area is beyond the capacity of the council to handle.
He wondered why the federal government which once promised to established modular refineries in the Niger Delta region has reneged on that promise.