Stakeholders have expressed fears that operation of illegal refineries in Niger Delta has become an unwholesome practice that would be difficult to stop.
The Executive Director of Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group, Dr. George-Hill Anthony, who spoke at a policy dialogue meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was rounded off at the weekend, said that the operations of artisanal refineries are threats to the aviation sector if not checkmated.
“If artisanal refineries are not well regulated and some of the products find their way to the aviation sector, the nation may well be sitting on a keg of gunpowder awaiting national calamities.”
Also, the Executive Director, African Citizens’ Initiative for Rights and Development (ACIDR), Young Kigbara, traced the emergence of artisanal refineries in Niger Delta to the desire of the region to control their resources.
His words: “The people of the region feel that they have been alienated from the benefits that flow from oil exploration in their communities.” Kigbara also blamed the weakened community leadership for the inability of traditional institution to tame the trend among their subjects, especially the youths.
Meanwhile, illegal refineries that specialise in the production of alternative petroleum products, popularly referred to as ‘Kpo-Fire,’ is thriving as a result of poverty and products’ scarcity in the Niger Delta region, The Guardian has learnt.
A trip to Bodo community in Rivers State showed the presence of ‘Kpo-Fire’ in almost every corner of the community in the oil-rich state that houses the largest refinery in the country.Indeed, at most filling stations in the Niger Delta, kerosene, diesel and petrol are categorised into three namely: dry (refined petroleum products in conventional refineries), mixed and ‘Kpo-fire’.
The ‘dry’ fuel, which is not mixed, are the products refined in standard refineries while mixed is a mixture of ‘Kpo-fire’ and the normal petroleum product while the third is ‘Kpo-fire’ products.
While original fuel costs N180 to N200 per litre, ‘Kpo-fire’ costs about N130 and Kpo-fire kerosene costs N100 per litre.A community leader in the community, Saint Emmah Pii, told The Guardian that though ‘Kpo-fire’ is still in use in his community, it is no longer produced within the area.
He said: “We stopped the production of ‘Kpo-fire’ in Bodo community through a traditional means. We simply swore to an oath that no one should engage in it and it stopped.”
In another development, a group, under the auspices of Concerned Niger Deltans, has threatened a legal action against the Federal Government over alleged tenure elongation of the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The group, therefore, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into what it described as the illegal and unlawful tenure elongation and reverse it immediately in the interest of justice.
In a protest letter to the Presidency, the concerned group demanded that the provisions of the law establishing the commission be strictly adhered to in resolving the dispute. The group, led by Yekini Nabena, said that the purported tenure elongation was unacceptable and indeed, an affront to the good people of Niger Delta region on the ground that the act violated Section 5 (3) of the NDDC Act 2000.