Saturday, March 14, 2020 10:19 am
…To continue advocacy for modular refineries with more stakeholders
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Rivers government has assured about 2,000 illegal operators of crude, local refineries, popularly known as ‘Kponfire’ that it will create enabling environment for them to set up modern, government licensed modular refineries as part of the efforts to stop pollution, especially, emission of poisonous soot in the state.
Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Mrs. Ipalibo Harry Banigo gave the assurance during an interactive session with the Chairmen of Community Development Committees, CDCs, in the 23 local government areas of the state held at Delta Hotels in Port Harcourt on Friday.
The Deputy Governor said the purpose of the interaction is send the right message to the illegal distillers of the petroleum products, popularly known as ‘Kponfire’ that the government is working out ways of making them come together and form cooperative societies to form clusters of modular refineries licenced by Government to maximize the opportunity the business will offer.
Rivers Commissioners of Environment, Igbicks Tamuno, Environment, Dr. Peter Medee, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim also attended the forum.
The Commissioners stressed the need for the CDC Chairmen to carry the message from the Governor of Rivers State to the operators of the illegal refineries that the government is ready to partner with them to stop the crude method of refining crude oil to stop the emission dangerous soot into the environment.
The Commissioners also emphasized that from the findings carried out by experts, it has been found out that some of the chemical components in the soot are very hazardous to the human health and have been cited as causes of cancer, especially on the critical organs like the heart, lungs, and liver. They warned that a lot of people are coming up with the cancers and asthma.
The Commissioner for Environment said, “Operators of Kponfire are brothers, friends and mothers. From findings their activities are more prevalent in the 14 local government areas and no local government area has less than 10 Kponfire sites that is polluting the environment inhabited by about seven million people.
“We are here to provide alternatives that would be a win-win situation for all. You, as CDC Chairmen should carry the good news home to the operators that we would not arrest them, but ready to partner with them to stop the crude method and embrace a better scientific method that environment-friendly.”
In his reaction, Mr John Chidiebere Onwubualili, Coordinator-General, Forum of Community Development Committees, CDCs, in Rivers State, said the plan by the state government to organise operators of artisanal refineries who are very rich based on proceeds from the illegal business would be a welcome development.
But he advised that there should be confidence and trust building mechanism between the government and the “Kponfire” operators.
He called for more confidence building between the Government and those making huge amount of money from the illegal business.
He noted that the illegal refining is also dangerous to the operators of ‘kponfire,’ their immediate families and environment and as such, they should be encouraged to wholeheartedly embrace noble plans of Government for the betterment of all and future generations.
Fyneface Dumnamene, Executive director of an non-governmental organisation, Youths and Environmental Advocacy applauded the initiative of government as a step in the right direction.
He said from advocacy carried out by his NGO, among the youths across state, especially with those involved in the Kponfire business said although they are making money doing the illegal business, they are also desirous of being involved in government-driven modular refineries.
Some of Chairmen who spoke at the forum said for the initiative to work, security agencies should be involved because most of them lobbied to be posted to the state because of the lucrative illegal business, which they aid and abet.
The interactive session ended with the promise that more interactive sessions will be held with traditional rulers, stakeholders in the petroleum industry like Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA and other interested Investors.