Following Friday night’s explosion at an illegal refinery at Abaezi Forest, in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, the State Government says it will no longer treat those who engage in illegal oil bunkering with kid-glove.
The government, while expressing regrets over the incident, assured that measures were being taken to ensure that the menace of illegal oil bunkering was brought to an end in the State.
The Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Nanah Opiah stated this on Wednesday while addressing newsmen in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
While commiserating with families of those who lost their lives in the explosion, Opiah prayed for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives.
He said that illegal oil bunkering is a crime that cannot be justified, adding that those responsible for the mishap must be called to account.
His words, “Government will no longer treat those who engage in illegal oil bunkering with kid-glove. No matter how stubborn the challenge of illegal oil blundering is, it remains surmountable, and the Government will surmount it.
“In as much as the challenges always encountered in the fight against illegal oil bunkering are stubborn, they are also very much surmountable. In other words, illegal oil bunkering can be effectively stopped.
“But then, this can only be achieved through strong commitment and collaboration between the people and government.
“The truth is, if we can always expose criminals amongst us, constantly and reasonably demand for accountability from government(s) while staying true to our civic responsibility of always ensuring we elect responsible and responsive leaders into government, the issue of illegal oil bunkering and indeed other crimes will be drastically reduced.”
“Government will no longer view illegal oil bunkering as a tool for blackmail, sabotage, bully or agitation against government. Rather, it should be righty taken for what it is – a fundamental crime and, therefore, existential threat”, he said.
He called on the youths of the oil producing communities to ignore the allure of illegal oil bunkering.
“I appeal to all of us, citizens of oil producing areas, to ignore the unnecessary attraction or allure in the illegal oil bunkering business and embrace the call by Government and well meaning citizens of the State in the advocacy against the menace.
“I invite every Imo State citizen, especially people of the oil producing areas to support and appreciate His Excellency’s struggle to recover the hitherto lost oil wells to our neighbouring State, Rivers.
“The effect of the uncommon fight is that Imo State will be counted among the top highest producers of oil in the Niger Delta. The benefits of this leap jump are huge in material and non-material terms. Illegal oil bunkering has the potential to make nonsense of the whole efforts of His Excellency, Governor Hope Uzodimma as the menace can simply keep Imo State’s contribution to the National Crude allocation to zero, thus making us the least in the comity of oil producing States,” he said.
He said that in few days to come, Government will be meeting with critical stakeholders in the oil producing communities as part of finding solutions to the menace of illegal oil bunkering, in addition to announcing other measures to address the situation.
Recall that the Commissioner had on Saturday morning visited the site of the incident on the directive of the Governor, who also ordered the immediate arrest of the owners of the illegal oil bunkering site, Victor Ukwe and Okenze Onyenwoke.