The Rivers State government has begun a series of meetings, especially with community youth development committees (CDCs) to roll out modular refineries in the oil-rich state.
At the weekend, topmost government officials led by the deputy governor, Ipalibo Harry Banigo, met with all the CDCs from the 23 local councils to put the plan before the grassroots leaders to get their input.
The deputy governor said several meetings had been held by top government officials before taking the matter to the youths and grassroots, saying they were the ones to suggest how best to go about the idea.
In her opening remarks, she said the government set up a technical committee because of soot and the key recommendation is to tackle illegal refining that causes soot. She said soon after, the federal government came up with the move to gather the illegal refiners and put them in cooperatives to obtain licenses and refine legally.
Mentioning the numerous hazards of soot and kpo-fire (illegal refining), she warned that what less than 2000 people are feeding with is killing seven million population.
She said scientific reports have shown that soot or particles of crude oil being burnt cause cancer, and damage lungs, heart, skin, and kidney.
Banigo said: “The FG said they are ready to give licenses to modular refineries, The state government wants to put our heads together and see how Rivers State can benefit from this and also save the environment.
“Pollution is killing the soil, water, plants, etc. If nothing is done, in the next 10 years, nobody knows what will happen to our people and who will live and who will not. This is why we have been consulting all segments and layers of authority to get inputs for the move to help the youths and illegal refiners set up modular refineries.”
She said the next move would be to meet relevant FG bodies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Ministry of Environment, and the financing bodies to see how the matter goes.
Reacting, the CDCs began to reveal most causes of kpo-fire, many saying the security agencies are now the owners of the refineries while the boys are now mere workers. Some said even if if you report bunkering activity, the security agents would ignore you and go on to do their open collection on the roads from the refiners.
Some even said right from the NNPC, DPR, Army, down to community leaders are fully involved. They pleaded that if they should go and convince the boys to stop, that whatever promise the government makes must be fulfilled to avoid the boys coming after the CDC leaders.
The Rivers State coordinator-general of the CDCs, John Chidiebere Onwubualiri, said they had the network of all the community leaders around the state and if a secretariat and other supports already promised them were to be delivered, they would move fast to mobilise the youths to modular action.
A leader of an NGO, Saturday Ngorji of Asari Toru local council area said the lives of the CDCs would be at risk if promises were not fulfilled because they would think they had collected money. Some suggested setting up of at least 10 modular refineries in Rivers State through the various youth groups.
Source: Business Day