Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has urged the people of Niger Delta to be vigilant against pipeline vandals and crude oil thieves, noting that such activities portend danger to the environment.
Besides, he said that the state government is in support of those calling for the establishment of modular refineries across the Niger Delta region in place of the illegal ones being destroyed as part of the measures to get the youths gainfully employed among other benefits.
Speaking when the new Commander in charge of the Joint Task Force code-named Operation Polo Shield, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe paid him a courtesy visit, Wednesday (28/05/14) in Asaba, Dr Uduaghan said it was important for the people of Niger Delta to guard against pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft because such dangerous activities destroy the environment.
According to him, it was also important for them not to engage in such nefarious activities observing that oil spillage degrades the environment for a long period of time.
“Crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism are not just economic loss, they are also, environmental challenges because if the oil finishes tomorrow, the damage to the environment continues and it will take years to clean,” the Governor said.
He added: “Our people, the people of Niger Delta should understand the damage involved in pipeline vandalism on the environment; we appeal to them not to get involved in crude oil theft as it affects our own people and the environment, we should all be involved in protecting the environment.”
Governor Uduaghan disclosed that his administration is partnering the United Nations to carry out initial assessment on the level of damage to the environment by oil exploration activities, adding that it was important to ascertain the level of damage to enable the state seek assistance both nationally and internationally to clean the environment.
On what his administration was doing to encourage the people not to go into crude oil theft, Dr Uduaghan said through the Delta Beyond Oil initiative, Deltans are being encouraged to be involved non-oil economic activities like agriculture, tourism, among others, stating that the Government has approved plans for the state to have Modular Refineries.
He disclosed that the Delta State Oil Producing Communities Development Committee (DESOPADEC) has identified communities where the Modular Refineries are to be sited.
While congratulating Major-General Atewe on his appointment as the Commander, JTF, the Governor lauded President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment towards checking crude oil theft.
He assured the JTF of necessary assistance from the state and national committee on crude oil theft to enable them carry out their mandate.
Earlier, Major-General Atewe thanked the Governor for his interest and commitment towards providing assistance for the JTF to carry out its functions disclosing that from March, this year, more than twenty vessels have been arrested for engaging in crude oil theft with some of them charged to court.
“We have zero tolerance on oil theft, the President is determined that the battle must be won” the Commander said, but observed that the Nigeria legal system was very weak in terms of prosecuting oil thieves.