The federal government has urged artisanal refiners of crude oil in Ogoni, Rivers State, to form cooperatives and seek partners for the establishment of modular refineries.
Meanwhile, artisanal refiners have threatened that if the federal government failed to give them pipeline surveillance contracts, they will resume illegal refining of petroleum products that will further re-pollute the environment and jeopardise the clean process.
The Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman, during a stakeholders meeting with artisanal refiners at the office of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in Port Harcourt, warned that their illegal activities will further elongate the time for the clean up of Ogoni of they don't avail themselves of the federal government modular refinery scheme.
Usman explained that the federal government in appreciation of the importance of the environment to human existence, was determined to have Ogoni cleaned up in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme recommendations. He pointed out that while government cannot create job for everybody, it can create a conducive environment for people to earn a living.
The minister said the issue of crude oil production and artisanal refining have had adverse effect on the environment, and the federal government was resolved to restore and protect the environment. He stated that there is no amount of money generated from illegal refining can compare to the damage done to the environment. According to him, this is why the federal government has taken the issue of modular refinery serious.
"There is need for us to organise ourselves into responsible cooperatives, whether they are community or local government base. But there is need to have something that could regulate us. If you do that, I am assuring you that the Federal government is determine through HYPREP to support the means of livelihood.
It will be a small modular refinery that will be operated by a group, community or local government. I am sure that the roadmap that has been prepare by the Ministry of environment, the NDDC and Ministry of Petroleum, these activities will be brought on proper perspective and properly regulated and everybody will benefit and get means of livelihood" he said.
The minister explained the acting President showed his commitment towards the modular refinery project when he hosted the leadership of PANDAF headed by Chief Edwin Clark in Abuja recently.
On the Ogoni clean up, he warned that re-pollution of the environment will further elongate the implementation of the UNEP report. He noted that some people have condemned the federal government allegedly for slow implementation of the clean up of the Ogoni environment. But added that the government was doing a lot that might seem imperceptible to many.
"Yes you may not have seen anything but those who are coming close to listen to us know that we are making a process and you are helping us to drive the process. I know that one day will come when everybody will say yes they are doing something, because there is no way you will inject One Billion Dollar that people will not see the impart, there is no way the economy and the entire Rivers State will not be affected" said Usman.
HYPREP project coordinator, Marvin Dekil, explained that the consultative meeting with the artisanal refiners was in line with UNEP recommendation that alternative means of livelihood employment opportunities should be provided for those involved in illegal refining of crude oil in Ogoni.
Dekil said government was not asking them to stop artisanal refining to leave economically stranded. Rather, government has decided to train those of them who may have the academic edge in modular refining under the modular refinery scheme.