Home News Legalise artisanal refineries to create jobs, revenues—Niger Delta Stakeholders tell FG

Legalise artisanal refineries to create jobs, revenues—Niger Delta Stakeholders tell FG

by Business News Report

Critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta have urged  the Federal Government to legalise the shadow oil economy popularly called illegal artisanal refinery to create jobs for youths and revenues to tackle myriads of issues including the development of the region. They made the call during the 2024 edition of the annual oil and gas high level stakeholders discussion forum christened, “The Oloibiri Conversations”, organised by the Institute of Niger Delta Studies, NDU with the theme: “Engaging the Socio-economic Impact of the Shadow Oil Economy in the Niger Delta”, held at the campus of the Niger Delta University, Amassoma. Speaking at the event, the lead keynote speaker, Prof Atei Mark Okorobia of the University of Port Harcourt, highlighted the factors responsible for the Shadow Oil Economy known in the local parlance as Kpo-fire business, noting that if properly harnessed, it could turn around the fortune of the region and the country.

He said “the Federal Government and International Oil Companies have taken several steps to check illegal oil bunkering and refining with very little success. Majority of those in illegal bunkering and artisanal refinery do not do it because they are greedy but because they are poor, jobless, hungry and angry that lack access to alternative means of livelihood. Since it is difficult to combat illegal refining, the industry should be legalized to raise revenue for the government and develop the local economy in the Niger Delta. They should train and empower the youths to become wealth and job creators themselves.” The Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Francis Ikuponisi, however, linked the genesis of the Shadow Economy to scarcity of petroleum products experienced in recent years due to the breakdown of the nation’s refineries.

His words, “In the seventies and eighties, there was no demand for Kpo-fire products but all of a sudden there arose a great demand because our refining capacity as a nation got physically wiped off. There was no single drop of petroleum products coming out from these refineries. That’s why we have the Kpo-fire system to substitute for the refining capacity.” The second Lead Speaker, Prof Iwekumo Agbozu of the University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, in his submission, listed marginalisation, degradation and uneven distribution of wealth as factors which have contributed to the proliferation of the business in the region. To address the root causes of the shadow oil economy there must be an all inclusive development policy that prioritises the well being of the local community infrastructure development and social services to reduce the disparity that fuels this illicit activity, where the wealth of the nation that is gotten from the region gets back to the root,” he said.

The Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, in his remarks, noted that those involved in the shadow oil economy are not oil thieves but victims, adding that the real oil thieves are those who use ships and marine vessels to steal crude oil out of the region. The Chief Host and Vice Chancellor of the Niger Delta University, Prof. Allen Agih and the Director, Institute of Niger Delta Studies NDU, Professor Solomon Ebobrah, on their parts, said decisions reached at the conversation will form a document to guide government policies in the oil and gas industry. Others including the Leader of the Bayelsa State House of Assemble, Hon. Monday Edwin Obolo, former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Chief Serena Dokubo-Spiff, Barrister Iniruo Wills and Dr. Charles Ambaowei in their goodwill messages called on the Federal Government and oil companies to tackle the age-long problem of development and empowerment of the youths of the region.

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