Chairman, Andoni Local Government Area in Rivers State, Mr Erastus Awortu, has confiscated over 100 drums of illegally refined crude oil in Andoni while lamenting the adverse effects on the environment.
Awortu made this known on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, while briefing newsmen on activities of the Council’s Petroleum Task Force in the fight against oil bunkering.
He stressed the readiness of the task force to tackle the illegal crude oil trade in the creeks of Andoni, adding that the move by the council became imperative towards saving the fast-eroding fishing livelihood of the people.
According to him, the fishing livelihood of the people has been grossly affected, leaving a once economically viable area with no distinct possibility for recovery.
He noted that on assumption of office, a Committee on Petroleum was constituted with a mandate to oversee oil companies and to ensure Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was adhered to.
The committee was to check infringement on the rights and livelihoods of communities.
The council boss said that a recent directive by Gov. Nyesom Wike for the 23 local council Chairmen concerning exposing illegal crude oil refineries was a moral boost to the existing Petroleum Committee of the council.
“In line with the governor’s directive, we immediately set up a task force to enable us track sites used for illegal refineries with a view of eliminating them, I went with the team through some of the creeks and we discovered some bunkering sites.
“Andoni is very strategic in this illegal trade not in terms of numbers of illegal refineries but because so many crude oil pipeline connectivity traverse the creeks and our water bodies.
“Indeed, major distribution of crude oil source feeding illegal refineries which spikes the trending challenge of black soot within the state and beyond could be traced to oil theft activities in Andoni creeks,” he said.
Awortu commended the security operatives for their collaboration during the exercise where over 100 drums of illegally refined fuel were impounded.
He also urged them to step up actions against perpetrators to curb the menace.
“Security agencies have a lot of work to do to protect the Federal Government pipelines, during the raid, we saw that some of the illegal refineries have already been destroyed by the security operatives but we urged them to do more.
“The areas we discovered the illegal refineries have indeed suffered monumental environmental damage as these refineries were constructed near fish settlements.
“In the past, fishes like the mood-skippers, different species of crabs and other seafood were visibly seen at creeks and river banks, today they are no more even the mangroves are withered.
“A more reason, efforts by the governor against illegal refineries should be supported by all in the interest of our environment, health and livelihood,” he added.
The council boss warned against the illicit trade, promising to champion enlightenment and support for youth development through a skill acquisition programme.
“We can no longer sit down and watch some lawless persons indulge in a business that is directly hazardous to our lives, environment and posing an unquantifiable deprivation on our local populace.
“We will continue to fight within the ambits of the law to ensure that oil theft seizes to thrive in Andoni LGA,” he said.
By Ikuru Lizzy