Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Stakeholders from the Niger Delta have decried the damage crude oil theft and artisanal refining has inflicted on the region.
The stakeholders drawn from the civil society organisation, the academia, legislature, security agencies, government, traditional institutions, media and oil producing communities from Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers states, declared that oil theft and illegal refining was hurting the region’s environment, national economy and health of the operators and communities.
In a communique issued at the end of a one-day round-table dialogue with the theme, “Workable Long Term Sustainable Alternatives to Oil Theft and Artisanal Refining in the Niger Delta,” jointly organised in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by the Institute for Niger Delta Studies (INDS) and the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spill in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), they advocated sustainable alternative livelihoods as panacea to the increasing problem of oil theft and artisanal refining activities in the region.
The communique signed by INDS Director, Prof. Ambily Etekpe, and NACGOND National Coordinator, Rev. Fr. Edward Obi, stated that oil theft and artisanal refining are socio-political and economic issues rooted in the Niger Delta conflict and development crisis.
According to them, the negative impacts of oil bunkering were mostly pronounced in rural communities, stressing that this had disarticulated the local economy.
“The non-inclusive nature of the multinational oil companies’ operational system in the Niger Delta is a propelling reason for (operators) venturing into artisanal refining in the region.
“Oil theft and artisanal refining have continued to grow in the region due to factors such as the provision of employment and wealth creation by the sector, improving quality of products, rising demand and subsequent supply, and the state’s inability to provide the product,” they stated in the communiqué.
It, therefore, recommended that “the Federal Government should identify artisanal oil refining camps, locate the owners, engage them in constructive dialogue, encourage them to form cooperatives and register them with Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and grant them operational artisanal refining licence (as the present modular refinery is too expensive for them).”
It also called on the federal and state governments as well as the multinational oil firms to “support the development of alternative sources of livelihood within the context of the local economy that are affordable.”