From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Edo State office of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has sealed off 16 illegal gas facilities and filling stations in the state for alleged breaches of rules and regulations.
The agency also arrested five suspects and handed them over to law enforcement agencies for prosecution.
The facilities were sealed off in Oredo, Ikpoba Okha, Egor and Uhunmwonde local government areas of the state during a two-day monitoring and inspection exercise carried out by the agency.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the inspection, Engineer. Ebi Ogionwo, the state Comptroller of the agency said the clampdown was a renewed onslaught against the activities of illegal and unlicensed oil and gas operators in the State.
He alleged that some misguided operators within the investing public went about setting up oil and gas facilities in areas that are not suitable for the business and without necessary approvals from the agency.
He emphasized that it’s an offence for anyone to site such facilities without due approval from the NMDPRA.
He, however, gave the breakdown of licensed gas plants in Edo State as 165 as well as other CNG, Autogas and other Industrial gas stations.
The NMDPRA boss explained that the exercise was a continuous one and the purpose of the arrest made is to bring sanity to the operations of midstream and downstream petroleum businesses in the state.
He, however, warned investors against taking laws into their hands and going about setting up such petroleum facilities in areas that are not approved by the agency.
He disclosed that the suspects arrested will be charged in court, and if they are found guilty they are going to jail.
“We are trying to enumerate the total numbers of illegal plants that we have and we are going to take necessary actions against them including partnering with other agencies of governments both state and federal governments to make sure that we shut them down in the state.
“The monitoring and inspection exercise was to entrench safety of lives, properties and environment as well as to check for compliance.
“It is one of our primary responsibilities to make sure that all the people who have established and operating oil and gas facilities in Edo state do so legally, according to the petroleum laws and for them to operate it in a manner that will entrench safety of lives and properties in the state.
“There are laws, guidelines and regulations that people must follow before they set up oil and gas facilities in Edo state. So the purpose of the operations is also to check the level of compliance by those who have set up these facilities in the state and also take necessary actions that are required of us to take on them”, he said.
He further added that the inspection exercise was necessitated by the alleged upsurge of illegal operators in the state
“Nobody should go and build any gas facility or gas plant anywhere in the state without recourse to the agency of government that is responsible for licensing these facilities”, the NMDPRA chief added.
Ogionwo noted that the operators in the sector must operate in line with the laws, guidelines and regulations to set up the facilities.
He explained that the inspection was mainly focused on gas facilities in the state for now and is to prevent the occurrence of any unwanted accidents that have claimed several lives and destroyed properties in some parts of the country.
He opined that the illegal operations of oil and gas facilities compromised the safety of lives, properties, and the environment as well as deprived both the state and federal governments of the revenue that is supposed to accrue to them through taxes and other sources of revenue generation.