Stakeholders have advised the federal government to license artisanal and modular refineries in the Niger Delta as a potent way of tackling unemployment, scarcity of petroleum products, oil theft and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region.
They declared that avoiding this path would only aggravate the environmental problems of the region, worsen the scarcity of petroleum products nationwide and continue to deny the country the much-needed revenue and meeting the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production quota.
the second stakeholders’ engagement on integration of the modular/artisanal refinery operations into the oil and gas sector in order to mitigate the current challenges of revenue loss, petroleum scarcity and environmental pollution and negotiated way out.
Organised by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, headed by Senator Ita Enang in collaboration with the Presidential Amnesty Office, the participants included operators in the public and private sectors, security agencies, artisanal refiners otherwise referred to as illegal miners and the academia, among others.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Host Communities, Hon Dumnamene Robinson Dekor said it was time for the government to face the reality of the present scarcity of petroleum products, especially petroleum motor spirit (PMS) and diesel.
He noted that the present scarcity of diesel had underscored the reality that the illegal refiners were the ones sustaining the availability of the product, adding that the impact of their absence had distorted supply.
While advocating the harnessing of the technology applied by the artisanal refiners, he stated that they should be organised in clusters for the good of the operators, the communities, the environment and government.
Dekor called for a holistic approach that would ensure that the illegal refiners were acquitted with the needed technology, licensed, allowed to operate legally and formally allocated crude to refine so as to check environmental pollution.
The lawmaker said a presidential programme and pronouncement were necessary to drive the process.
In his goodwill message, the Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Petroleum Redources, Effurun, Delta State, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh said the university had designed a local modular refinery which is on the verge of being fabricated.
He stated that the university had also tested the technology used by the artisanal refiners, adding that it was working, but required some modifications.
Rim-Rukeh urged the federal government to get the local refiners and send them to his university for training, advising that the authorities should strike a balance between youth employment and environmental degradation.
Also, in his goodwill message, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, lamented the humongous losses suffered by the country in the oil and gas sector.
He stated that his agency would endorse any potent measure to stem crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and ensure increased productivity, adding that modular refinery was the way to go.
In the same vein, the Minister of State, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba said the federal government would support the licensing of modular refineries if that would guarantee revenue and ensure a win-win situation.
In his presentation, which was highly revealing, an activist and Executive Director of Youths and Environmental Advicacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene, accused the security agencies of being complicit in the problem of illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta.
He said stealing of oil was impossible without security agencies’ connivance, calling for the licensing of modular refineries to bring an end unwholesome activities in the Niger Delta.