From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the Nigeria’s economy would remain vulnerable and weak, if illegal bunkering and artisanal refining of crude oil continue unabated.
Governor Wike made the observation at the commissioning and presentation of 14 ballistic gunboats, donated by the Rivers State Government to the Nigerian Navy, Army, Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, at NNS Pathfinder, Naval Base, Rumuolumeni in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area on Friday.
The governor said the seeming frustration in the fight against illegal refining of crude oil was caused by security personnel who are deeply involved in the illegal activity or providing cover for the criminals.
“Most of the problem we have with illegal oil bunkering is that security agencies are fully involved in this illegal oil bunkering. That’s the truth. Civil defence is involved. Army is involved. Police is involved. Navy is involved. Let us tell ourselves the simple truth.”
He explained that the oil and gas sector is the mainstay of the nation’s economy and Nigerians owe it as a duty to ensure that the country’s economy is salvaged.
“All of us we owe it a duty to see how we can salvage this country. 80 percent of the revenue of this country comes from oil and if we cannot reduce or stop this illegal oil bunkering this country is in for problem. And so, we must all work together to help this country.”
He said his administration has remained committed to the fight against illegal bunkering and achieved tremendous results leading to reduced soot and oil theft.
Governor Wike said instead of the Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) commending the Rivers State Government for the feat, which has made oil production level go up, he should rather discharge requisite corporate social responsibility due the Rivers State similar to what NNPC is doing elsewhere.
The governor dismissed notions in some quarters that governors put their states’ security vote in personal pockets.
According to him, provision of gunboats, other equipment and logistics to the security agencies to strengthen their capacity to fight crime and criminality are evidence of how the security vote is being deplored.
Governor Wike charged the security agencies to confine the use of the gunboats to the Rivers State for which they were provided to tackle the menace of sea piracy and illegal bunkering activities.
Commissioning the 14 ballistic gunboats, the Chief of Naval Staff , Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, said maritime terrorism, oil theft and piracy were major challenges that the Navy has continued to confront concertedly.
Vice Admiral Gambo, who said Nigeria has exited the International Maritime Bureau global list of countries prone to piracy, thanked governor Wike for the donation, and the initiative taken in waging war against artisanal refining activities which have given more impetus to the security agencies to brace up to the fight.
He said there is need to emulate Governor Wike who has mustered the political will to wage war against operators of illegal refineries, with the support of local government chairmen who have identified and and destroyed bunkering sites and arrest some perpetrators.
On his part, the Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral I.A. Dewu, lauded Governor Wike for the donation of the boats which he noted would compliment the Navy’s efforts to eradicate illegal oil bunkering and refining in the State and the entire Niger Delta.
The Managing Director of Abitto Global Services, Richard Akinaka, whose firm built the gunboats, thanked the Rivers State government for awarding an indigenous firm the contract to build the boats.