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Illegal refiners on the prowl

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It is called Kpofire in the local parlance. While the government has declared their activities illegal, many illegal refiners of crude oil are still on the prowl, leaving on their trail environmental disasters in their neighbourhoods. EMMANUEL MASHA reports from Port Harcourt

 

Few years ago, youths that engaged in kpofire, the illegal refining of stolen crude oil into fuel, diesel or kerosene in Niger Delta communities where pipelines crisscross were regarded as brave men.

They were men, who dared the Federal Government by forcefully taking what rightfully belonged to them. The youths usually armed themselves with dynamites, and other tough tools needed to hack into the pipelines to access the crude before carrying out the refining.

At every step of this very dangerous exercise, there are men on the look-out for raids by security operatives. Some who didn’t even benefit in any way from the business even tipped off the perpetrators during raids by security operatives.

That stance was understandable and condoned given the level of neglect of oil bearing communities in terms of infrastructure, and the widespread unemployment in such communities.

Some ex-agitators that were granted amnesty by the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua administration claimed they were easily recruited into “the Niger Delta struggle, “because they were jobless and had very low educational qualifications and had no skills.

To make matters worse, most of those in the region’s wealthy class appeared to be ignorant of what it truly meant to create economic opportunities,” said one observer.

“It is strictly a two-way traffic when it comes to creating opportunities in the Niger Delta. It is either the real big men who have the cash, build hotels or they buy up lands and properties. But what they don’t realize is that hotels thrive in places where tourism also thrives.

The people of the region are too poor to patronize the kind of hotels they construct,” he added. For some youths in the region, whatever it takes to survive should not be criminalized.

It is common for unemployed youths, or those who feel that there was nothing wrong with kpofire or bunkering to network among themselves where to head to for jobs in communities near oil bearing communities that accommodate active pipelines.

Currently, however, the destruction kpofire has caused in some Niger Delta communities has forced a rethink among some concerned individuals, who have since realized that kpofire is one of the biggest threat to the environment. Rivers have been polluted with sticky, black oil, which is formed after intense burning and processing of the crude for petroleum products.

This waste has proven highly poisonous to aquatic animals that many used to hunt in commercial quantity. Also, some farmlands very close to the creeks or rivers where these illegal refiners carry out their operations are no longer fertile because the after product of kpofire flow into such farmlands especially during heavy rainfall that instigate flooding.

A father of one who supervises the operations of youths working in a creek not far from the Abonnema Water front area in Port Harcourt, said that illegal refiners headed by “chairmen” usually worked in clusters near the site of a targeted pipeline.

For work to take place on any particular day, he noted that the coast must be clear; that work takes place on a day that security operatives, mostly officers from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC “must not show up” during patrols.

“Whenever they come, it means that something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. It means that somebody has refused to take the necessary action to ensure that work goes on without any distractions,” he said.

“When you don’t make the necessary arrangement to commence operation, you endanger the lives of the boys working for you, because just one gunshot or metals knocking each other can ignite fire and cause deaths to happen,” he added. There are some cases of explosion during the heating of the stolen crude.

The sight is like the burnt bodies of people scooping fuel at the site of a fallen tanker that exploded. Often, those who manage to survive the fire after months of treatment hardly ever return to their normal lives. In some riverine communities in Rivers State, there are illegal refiners, who are in business because of shoddy security surveillance or monitoring that has made it possible for tankers to drive deep into the communities to load refined products.

The loaded tankers then transport the product to neighbouring states. According to those familiar with kpofire, the more refined the products (fuel, kerosene or diesel) turn out, the more the Niger Delta environment suffer.

This is because the crude is subjected to more heat or cooking to turn out well and usable, while the waste that turns out from this process is the very dark, sticky or greasy oil that blacken the river and destroy aquatic animals.

This has subjected fishermen and farmers into more poverty Sometime ago, there was a lethal brand of kerosene in some parts of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta states that exploded in stoves and lamps, which killed or inflicted serious injuries on its victims. According to a kpofire watcher, such kerosene was not well treated before being loaded.

In Port Harcourt, some of the survivors of kerosene explosions are usually rejected at private hospitals because they lack the needed facilities to admit such patients.

The two main safe havens for victims are the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the state owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH). One of the reasons kpofire remains lucrative is because illegally refined petroleum products are cheaper and has been accepted by the people. The scarcity of petroleum products is common in most Niger Delta communities, with most residents willing to buy products churned out through kpofire. A few years ago, tankers carrying illegally refined petroleum products were set ablaze in some designated spots.

These operations were coordinated from the then 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt. Soldiers on patrol were sent to intercept tankers following tip off by informants and concerned members of the public. Many were arrested, while filling stations linked to the tankers were also sealed up. Those arrested were mostly tanker drivers, conductors and other small players in the business.

Those behind the business where “chairmen” who ran the shows from the shadows were hardly nabbed. But the hunt for perpetrators of kpofire to a large extent has reduced in some communities where it once thrived. More than a year ago, the army uncovered a massive illegal oil bunkering site about one kilometre from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Port Harcourt. During the raid, 13 suspects were arrested.

Then commander of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Brig.-Gen. Stevenson Olabanji, disclosed that thousands of litres of illegally refined diesel were discovered at the site following a tip-off.

“This discovery is unprecedented because since we started our operations 10 days ago, this is about the biggest that we have uncovered.” According to Olabanji, the operatives also discovered additional 150 drums loaded with about 3,150 litres of diesel in 21 Cotonou boats.

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Jonathan warns Buhari against rigging Ekiti poll

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Former President Goodluck Jonathan has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against succumbing to pressure to subjugate democracy by rigging the Ekiti State governorship election, in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stating that such action would haunt him at the end of his tenure.

 

Dr. Jonathan also advised him against bowing to any such pressure to use presidential powers negatively, but urged President Buhari to use his powers to strengthen democracy in Nigeria. The former President, who gave this advice during the inauguration of the first over-head bridge in Ado- Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, warned that President Buhari would be haunted by posterity if he does “because what you go with is the name that you leave behind.”

 

His words: “I don’t believe anybody can defeat the PDP in Ekiti if election is going to be held. I want to advise President Buhari not to deploy power to truncate Ekiti election. Though as a President, you have the power, but don’t do that because of posterity. History will record whatever you do and the power of a leader is determined after leaving office and not when he is in the office.

 

“The will of the people must be allowed to stand at all times, because power belongs to them and we must respect their verdict through the ballots. I am using this opportunity to call on Mr. President. I was there, and

 

I know (that) when you are there, there is so much pressure from everybody to use all the powers you have to subjugate democracy,” he said. He, therefore, called on Buhari not to bow to pressure by attempting to subjugate democracy in Nigeria, as doing that would amount to undermining the country’s path to greatness.

 

Jonathan said that advanced countries of the world today achieved greatness from the selfless sacrifices made by both leaders and followers. Part of the sacrifices, he said, made by their leaders includes not interfering with the democratic process that brings in successive leaders into office.

 

“All the great democracies you are seeing in the world, those great countries were built by people who made sacrifices to make their countries great.” Jonathan also used the opportunity to commend Nigerian youths whom he described as great and hardworking people. Although he admitted that the youths were confronted with challenges, especially not being encouraged with creativity, he called on governments at all levels to encourage them to be hard-working. He further stated: “We have challenges – no power for creativity. With the limits we have, we know the great things you are doing.”

 

The former President expressed optimism that with the level of support by the people, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a party to beat in the forthcoming election. Jonathan further called on Ekiti people to vote for the PDP in the July 14 governorship polls even as he thanked them for their support to Governor Ayodele Fayose. He commended PDP for choosing youthful governorship candidate and his running mate, adding: “Nigerian youths are not lazy. I don’t believe that, because I have worked with them closely.

They are great people with great potential who should be celebrated by any leader.” In a veiled reference to Buhari’s recent statement abroad, he said “As leaders we must make sure we present a country that will make us proud and not to use our country as a negative example in Africa to the outside world.

 

The idea of portraying Nigerians’ negative manners had occurred on two occasions under this present government. These are mistakes we should not make.” He thanked the people for their support for the PDP since 2015 and urged them to do more in the coming governorship election.

 

“Fayose will never compromise the interest of Ekiti people for anything. He is a leader who speaks truth to power. In fact, Fayose is a leader and he has done well for his people. Any leader who wants to encourage his people must encourage the education of the youth. If you don’t encourage the youths, they will be exploited. “As youths, you have to be aware that we are operating a knowledge-based economy. So you must be proficient in the use of computer. You can’t compromise this if you want to fit into the 21st  century economy,” he said.

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Nigeria more transparent under Buhari –Lai Mohammed

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Solicits TI’s support on anti-graft war

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said Nigeria is more transparent under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The Minister said this to a delegation of Transparent International (TI) led by its Chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio, who visited him in Abuja, saying President Buhari’s  administration is committed to eradicating corruption in the country. “Nigeria has never had a more transparent and more accountable government than the Buhari’s administration,” the Minister said.

 

He regretted that TI and the local civil society organisations affiliated to it have not offered the necessary support to the Federal Government in its anti-corruption war. The Minister, therefore, called on TI to support Buhari’s ant-corruption war, especially in the area of advocacy and capacity building. He noted that when the government disclosed that 55 people stole N1.34 trillion between 2006 and 2013, a section of the civil society alleged that the publication was one-sided, instead of supporting the govern  ment’s action.

 

He tasked TI and its affiliates to show more understanding for the sociological complexities of fighting corruption in Nigeria since the nation operates a federal system of government. The Minister said Nigeria is succeeding in its anti-corruption fight because the fight is led by a President, whose integrity is beyond reproach, noting that his worst critics won’t say he indulges in or encourages corruption.

 

Earlier, Ms Ferreira Rubio had told the minister that her visit to Nigeria, which incidentally was her first in Africa, because the country can set the tone for the continent in the fight against corruption.

 

She added that TI’s mandate is to offer support through civil society organisations and the private sector to foster the fight against corruption. Ms Rubio advised that while the government is doing a lot to fight corruption, it should ensure more transparency and more efficiency in service delivery.

 

“We are not an opposition anywhere in the world. We are just an NGO working in over 100 countries of the world. We are not enemies. We are here to help,” she said.

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Woman appeals to IG over missing husband

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She should check SARS –PPRO

 

Mrs. Adeshina, wife of a Lagos State politician, Mr. Okokuku Adeshina, has called on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris (IGP), to warn and caution his officers as not only her husband’s life is in danger but all. Tina, who spoke with journalists over the weekend, said Idris should compel his officers and men to stop being instruments in the hands of politicians who use them to harass their opponents.

 

The distraught woman disclosed how some policemen stormed their house at Ikorodu area of the state on Tuesday evening, and without any search warrant, and whisked her husband away to an unknown destination.

 

According to her, she said her husband called her with an unknown number two days after he was whisked away by the policemen, who wore antirobbery jackets over the mufti clothes, and told her to run far away with the children.

 

She said, her husband told her that it was a political big wig in the state that was behind his present travails in order to win him over to his camp. “My husband called me with an unknown number and said I should take the children to a safe place that the policemen that came to arrest him on the pretence over land dispute are actually working for an opposition politician who wants him to join his party,” she lamented.

 

“Yesterday, an unknown number called me again and I quickly answered thinking it was my husband but the person on the line told me that my husband had escaped.

 

I haven’t been able to get through to him on his phone since the day he was taken away and the man that called claimed to be a policeman that helped him escape, while on their way to the hospital. I believe that my life and those of my children are now also in danger and I don’t want to die,” Mrs. Adeshina cried. However, when contacted, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Chike Oti said, he was not aware of the arrest.

 

Oti, however, said Mrs. Adeshina should go to SARS office to check if her husband is there. It is only when she has done this that he would then know what to do.

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