Leaders of the Niger Delta region have welcomed the move by the Federal Government to adopt the modular refinery model to end illegal bunkering and refineries in the zone.
The leaders, who included refinery operators and other stakeholders who gathered in Bayelsa State on Sunday, see the liberalisation of modular refineries by the government to drive development in the Niger Delta region as a well-thought out decision.
The Acting President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, had during his last tour of oil communities in the Niger Delta, announced that the Federal Government would establish modular refineries in the region to drive its development strategy for the people.
Mr. Roland Kiente, who operates an artisanal refinery in Bayelsa State told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the policy, if implemented, would transform the economic fortunes of the oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.
“Those of us currently doing the business are pleased with the proposed plans by the Federal Government. We have been advocating for it for long and I have been very vocal in calling on government to come down to our level and assist.
“Our piece of advice, however, is that the government should not politicise it, they should identify those who are already in the business and leverage on their expertise to enhance their capacities.”
“Those with some kind of experience will be easier to train for the pilot scheme. And we shall be more than willing to work with the government to showcase our skills, before now they had branded us illegal and saboteurs.
“But what we are doing is source crude and refine; it is those who sell the crude to us that are involved in illegality.
“Also, that has been denting the image of the vocation of local refining; we are driven by entrepreneur instinct to survive.
“There is a big misconception, the artisanal refiners, just like the big refineries, buy crude from people who get it from illegal sources, so when the government comes in, everything will be formalised.
“With government involvement, the revenue will be paid into government coffers rather than individuals who break pipelines to steal crude, it is those persons that are illegal not us that refine and sell,’’ Kiente said.
In his reaction, Mr. Kennedy West, Special Assistant to Bayelsa State Governor on Niger Delta Youth Matters, noted that the modular refinery concept was a novel that could transform the oil-rich region.
“It is a strong answer to eliminate unsafe illegal refineries which are dangerous to our environment. The modular refinery is a perfect solution to the dangers of what our people are doing.
“Legitimising it to make room for small investors, who may not have the capital to build big refineries can build smaller refineries. The benefits are so enormous amongst which is increasing the local refining capacity.
“It will organise the local refineries operators into companies and encourage the people of the region to invest in local refining according to the level of their capital under a controlled and regulated framework.
“It is a wonderful idea that we support but it involves a lot and we all have to work together to achieve success from it; there is a role for stakeholders,” West said.
Mr. Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist also applauded the government for acceding to the yearnings of the people but called for the establishment of standards to protect the environment.
He advocated for baseline Environmental Impact Assessment studies by experts and putting in place safety measures prior to establishment of the refineries to ensure they run in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Mr. Ramsey Mukoro, an ex-militant leader, who also spoke in favour of the proposed modular refineries, noted that it would provide jobs for the teeming youths in the oil communities.
He said that when young minds are meaningfully engaged, they would direct their youthful energies to productive ventures.