The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Nigerian government to prosecute persons including security personnel involved in crude oil theft towards addressing the vexed issues of oil theft and refining of stolen crude oil and the consequent release of soot into the environment.
This followed the recent accusation by the Rivers State governor, Nyesome Wike against some security personnel including police officers and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) attached to anti-vandal Unit of providing cover for illegal refineries in the State, that led to the disbandment of the Unit and deployment of the DPO in charge of a division in a Community called Rumuji in the Emohua Local Government Area of the State.
ERA/FoEN’s appeal is contained in a Press statement jointly signed by Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director and Director of Programmes and Administration of the organization, Mike Karikpo.
It emphasized that artisanal refining of stolen crude oil is indicated as the current accelerator of soot and ambient air pollution in the Niger Delta region, but lamented decades of reckless exploration and production activities by multinational companies especially routine gas flaring and lax regulatory framework.
It also said the measure will help to tackle oil theft and pollution arising from gas flaring and other unwholesome activities in Niger Delta contribute largely to increasing rates of stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer that predisposes millions of people who reside in the region .
The statement urged the federal government to “conduct health surveys across the region to ensure early detection and treatment of air pollution related illnesses.
“The federal government should identify, investigate, and prosecute all members of our security agencies in the Niger Delta region who are active owners and participants in the stolen crude oil trade, those who aid and abet the operations of gangs involved in stealing crude oil for illegal refining and those who provide protection at artisanal refining sites while being paid with public funds”.
According to ERA/FoEN, “Identify and shame or prosecute filling stations and their owners who buy and sell their illegal products to the unsuspecting public. Also, identify, shame and or prosecute big companies and other businesses that use diesel from artisanal refineries to power their generators for dealing in stolen items.
“Provide alternative clean renewable energy in local Communities as well as fuel efficient clean cook stoves to drive down demand for illegally refined crude products.
“The federal government must address the huge electricity supply gap and the rising cost of cooking gas that is driving demand for artisanal oil products. Governments at all levels should develop a national just transition development plan that prioritizes environmental protection and conservation as well as the efficient utilization of resources in a circular economy model”, ERA/FoEN stressed.
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