From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said illegal crude oil refinery operators are causing great health hazard to residents in the State and destroying the national economy, which his administration will not tolerate.
Governor Wike made the declaration when he received on courtesy visit, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, at Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor told the Chief of Defence Staff the importance of the war against illegal crude oil refinery activities because the proceeds from the oil and gas sector sustain the country.
“You and I know that one product we have today that has kept this country going is oil and gas, which I will say is the main source of our revenue in this country today.
“And so, we must as a people, as a government, it doesn’t matter whichever faction you may be or whichever divide you may be, or you may find yourself. What is important you must defend any of our national assets.”
Governor Wike assured that his administration will not spare any meaningful measure that can be deployed to stem illegal crude oil refinery activities in the State.
He said those engaged in the criminal activities need to ask themselves about the kind of money they are making by sabotaging the national economy.
“I will do anything within my powers to see that it is put to stop. I owe it as a duty, first by making sure that government is not losing revenue.
“Whenever we lose national revenue it trickles down. It affects us at the State and Local Government levels. So, that is on the revenue aspect of it.”
The Rivers State governor pointed to the issues of health, occasioned by soot, that results from the criminal activities.
“I am willing to fight it and will continue to fight it. Some people are trying to politicise it , that you are doing it against certain ethnic group. That can’t change me, it doesn’t matter.”
The governor said in his meeting with traditional rulers and other stakeholders, he had warned that no body indicted as operator of illegal refinery will escape the full wrath of the law.
Governor Wike assured that his administration is ready to give the security agencies necessary logistics support as they join with the State to fight the menace.
He stated that some major sites have been identified and what is required is for adequate security protection to be given to all those assigned to destroy the sites.
“So, I am going to give them every support. I have declared this fight as the war against terrorism. I will treat them (operators of illegal refineries) worst than Boko Haram, because they are stealing from our economy and killing our people.”
Governor Wike told the Chief of Defence Staff to give his officers and men final directives to join hands with the Rivers State Government in the fight illegal oil bunkering in order to stem further destruction of the environment and the national economy.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, informed that he was in Port Harcourt as part of tour of military formations in the Niger Delta to assess security strategies and to also motivate officers for greater efficiency.
General Irabor expressed delight over the audacity shown by Governor Wike in championing the fight against illegal crude oil refinery activities that have been a great threat to the oil and gas Industry.
He said the military had long desired such government focused strategy towards the security of oil and gas asset and hoped that other governors will emulate it, which will enhance their security operations.