Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has vowed not to spare anyone involved in oil bunkering and illegal artisanal refinery activities that have caused the soot pandemic in the State.
He maintained that his administration will not succumb to any form of blackmail or sentiment that will be stirred by those perpetrators in an attempt to frustrate efforts at curbing such hazardous business.
Wike made the vow on Thursday when he took a tour, making a long walk through track roads, into the forest of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre local government area and the forests of Ibaa community in Emohua local government area of the state, to uncover some illegal crude oil refining sites.
The governor said: “They can’t be doing this and be killing my people. No reasonable government will allow that. And I can tell you with all due respect, we will take this matter very seriously.
“Look at how, everyday, in your house, you see the soot. I mean, how can you allow that? So, this one that we can solve, we will solve it. We have assured the people of Rivers State, we will fight this matter to the last until I leave office.”
Wike, who noted that confronting the cartel kind of business will not be easy, however, vowed to consider it as a war-like situation and fight it from the standpoint of the law.
He added: “No matter how highly placed the perpetrators may be, they will not be spared, but confronted, apprehended and be made to face the full force of the law.”
The governor, therefore, directed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, to take over the case files of illegal crude oil refinery operators arrested by the police.
“Attorney General, all these matters with the police, you have to retrieve the files so that you can prosecute the matters on our own. I don’t want any compromise anywhere.
“And then too, it will not be on the ministry. You have to constitute a legal team. Go and get our friends all over the country. So that we can execute this prosecution to the last.
“It is a serious matter. And I’m going to take it head-on. In fact, it is a war. It is not poor people doing this, they’re a cartel. You must go and arrest these people; Chief W. J. Wocha, you must arrest Fubara Ohaka, and Chief Promise Ezekwe. You must arrest them.
“It doesn’t matter how highly-placed you are. If you like be the paramount ruler. In fact, any traditional ruler that is involved, pick him for me. Let him understand that the law does not respect anybody,” Wile stated.
The governor also directed the Emohua Council chairman, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, to locate residences where processed crude oil products are stored and let the people ascertain their sources.
He stated that the purpose of confronting the havoc was to ensure that the health of Rivers people is not further hampered by those illegal refining activities.
Wike said: “If not our people will continue to die. Even you, you’re not safe from related sicknesses like cancer. All those products in the houses; You must go after them, they must tell you where they got the products. Enough is enough.
“Look at what is happening they are dying. I want to live. So, we must stop this illegal refinery activities. And I have said to the Federal Government, if you’re not willing to do anything, don’t promise people anything.
“You told them that you will do something, how can you promise modular refinery. What I’m talking about is the safety of Rivers people. That is more important to me.”
Explaining the ugly experience community people had suffered, the chairman of Emohua local government area, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, noted that the problem of illegal refining activities in the area was beyond the capacity of the council to handle.
Lloyd wondered why the Federal Government which once promised to established modular refineries in the Niger Delta region has reneged on that promise.
He added: “Thank God for your boldness. Rivers people are now aware. On a daily basis people roast and burn here. The whole Ibaa community has been taken over by this trade.
“And when you talk, they say look, if they don’t do this, they’ll go to the roads and begin to carry arms. And I say to them, you don’t dig a hole to cover another hole. Your business shouldn’t kill me.”