Leadership of Artisanal Refineries operators in the six states of the Niger Delta region has sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, over the allege neglect of its members by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC L I’llimited in the fight against crude oil pipeline vandalisation and theft. The group noted with concern that despite the show of support by the Association of Artisan Refineries to the ongoing fight against crude oil theft and the commendable award of surveillance contracts, the NNPC Ltd has shunned dialogue and refuse to provide alternative means of employment and livelihood to the teeming youths rendered jobless. The Association of Artisan Refineries Operators, in the letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, numbered C/2023/ESCR/168/HQ and dated 23th January, 2023, called on the President and the Management board of the NNPC Ltd to review the stand on inviting them to a round table for discussion and provide alternative means of employment.
The letter, which was also copied to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), also noted that “though the approval of the N4 billion monthly surveillance contract awarded to our brothers in the region is commendable, the inclusion of the Artisan Refineries operators will ensure sustainable end to crude oil theft and pipeline vandalisation in the region.” In a separate statement issued at the end of an enlarged meeting of the Artisan Refineries Operators in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and signed by the National Coordinator, Engr. Don Jacob Ebikeseiye, and Secretary General, Humphrey Dagogo, argued that the desired peace and security of the nation’s oil wealth will only be more assured if the main actors and the people in the community whose reasons the contract came to be are still restless. The group also said that NNPC Ltd has left unattended the areas of dialoguing with the artisanal refineries operators, to non-demobilisation of the stakeholders, and also provision of alternative sources of drinking water for the communities whose supply of drinking water are daily contaminated by the waste particles of crude oil exploration, insisting that the neglect of such key areas has further compounded and worsen the socio-economic challenges in their communities.
“They failed to know that we need to sensitise our people in the various communities whose lives depended on the local refining of crude production, we need to sit on a round table and interface with the people. The damages on ground what are the considerations towards addressing them? The people’s welfare should be paramount. We requested to have an audience, but till now no response from NNPC Ltd. There is the need for enlightenment tour across the Niger Delta states to educate the people on the need to adapt to the new life, and avoid the dangers caused by the activities in our domain, because most of them don’t even that government is doing everything to stop the activities.There are stages we ought to follow in order not to cause panic in our communities. It is not enough to set up surveillance team for only pipelines when the people that were operating the artisanal refineries and the host communities are not protected. We were taking good care of our people when we were operational. Where are the employment alternative for our people, we are not happy and it may lead to major crisis”
“Why is the NNPC Ltd trying to set our brothers against their communities, look at the adverse impacts of oil pollution on our people, and they think surveillance contract is just enough. What of the well being of the local indigenous community dwellers? Where are our daily livelihood, how do we survive?” The artisanal refineries operators, however, restated their commitment to support the genuine process of surveillance to succeed, noting that it can only happen when the right things are done by involving them in the scheme of things, and also called for a round table discussion on the development with the NNPC ltd.