Despite the country being unable to refine enough crude for local consumption of by-products, the Nigerian government destroyed more than 400 illegal refineries in three months, an official said.
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in Bayelsa said it destroyed more than 400 illegal mini-refineries, called modular refineries, operated by oil thieves in state.
The NSCDC Commandant, Desmond Agu, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Yenagoa that the illegal refineries were destroyed between January and March.
Some Nigerians, including the Ijaw Youths Council, have asked the federal government to legalise and regulate the modular refineries to ensure production of petrol and other by-products and as a means of job creation.
“Licensing modular refineries will reduce the pressure on the naira as the foreign exchange spent on importing the products will be conserved,” the chairman of the Ijaw Council, Udengs Eradiri, said in March.
The federal government has not indicated any willingness to legalise or regulate the modular refineries.
Nigeria has been hit with a scarcity of petrol in the past months that has helped in worsening the already troubled economy. The scarcity has forced many Nigerians, who need petrol for their cars and to power their electric generators, to buy the product at the black market sometimes at 500 per cent increase in price.
On Sunday, Mr. Agu said that the command now had a gunboat to fortify its operational capacity and had intensified patrols in the coastal settlements and waterways in the state.
He said that the intensified patrols by the command had led to the arrest of an ex-militant leader and his gang, whom he said, were being prosecuted.
Mr. Agu said that the corps had deployed its personnel to provide security to critical national assets and oil facilities across the state.
“We are on ground to ensure safety and protection of vital oil infrastructure and property within the command.
“The command is determined to deal with the oil thieves and end their illegal businesses.
“We have made some arrests concerning the recent cases of vandalism at Agip’s oil fields in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
“The corps recovered the bodies of the three oil workers that died in the explosion in one of the fields on March 26. We have handed over the bodies to Agip.
“The case has also been handed over to the Bayelsa State Police Command because it involves death and falls outside our mandate,” Mr. Agu said.
Peter Idabor, the Director-General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, had earlier attributed the death of the oil workers to poor safety procedures at the oil field.
Meanwhile, officials of Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Bayelsa and its parent company, Eni, have declined comment on the Easter Sunday’s explosion.
Fillippo Cotalini, Media Relations Manager, Eni, has yet to respond to the request sent to him through e-mail for a reaction on the explosion.
A similar explosion on July 9, 2015 claimed the lives of 14 people in the firm’s oil field in Azuzuama, in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
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