This is in addition to the collateral damage done to the environment through pollution and degradation of fauna and fora.
This situation was brought to the attention of the House of Representatives which accordingly resolved that security agencies should henceforth involve experts in destruction of illegal refinery to avoid environmental pollution.
The resolution followed a motion moved by Owoidighe Ekpoattai (PDP, Akwa Ibom) at plenary on Tuesday.
Leading the debate, Ekpoattai noted that the increase in illegal oil refineries in the creeks of the Niger Delta has become alarming and has added a new twist to the economic and security challenges confronting the nation, even with the plan of turning them to modular refineries.
She informed the House that the quest to acquire crude oil illegally by “non-professionals is devastating the environment, destroying wild and aquatic lives as well as stunting the economic development of the nation, thus resulting in an estimated loss of 10.9 billion dollars between 2009 and 2011”
The lawmaker explained that section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides that the State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air, land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria while section 2 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, Cap E12, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 also provides for restriction on public or private projects without prior consideration of their impact or effects on the environment.
She also added that in a bid to curb the menace, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Navy have collectively destroyed at least 280 illegal refineries and barges loaded with petroleum products and secured the conviction of 40 perpetrators out of the 118 arrests made in the last one year in the Niger Delta region.
She however expressed concerns that despite the commendable efforts of the various security agencies to curb the menace of illegal refineries, the methods adopted in the destruction of those refineries are further endangering the environment of the region and negatively affecting the general health and well-being of the people because wastes emanating from the destroyed refineries and barges are washed into the creeks and the ocean.
She observed that failure by security agents to involve experts in carrying out the destruction of the refineries poses environmental hazards just as the existence and operation of those illegal refineries themselves.
Contributing to the debate, Joan Mrakpor (PDP, Delta) said “these products we are destroying are our common wealth ” adding that “we should consider the environmental impact of this exercise.”
Also supporting the motion, Henry Ofongo (PDP, Bayelsa) lamented the non consideration of reports emanating from similar motions in the past, saying “we have been crying over this for a long time.”
The House accordingly mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Environment and Habitat, Army, Navy, Interior, Niger Delta, and Legislative Compliance to interface with relevant Security Agencies to ensure that officials of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) are involved in the process of destroying illegal refineries and boats laden with petroleum products to guarantee, to an extent, retrieval of the stolen crude oil, avoid spillage, either on land or water, as well as minimize economic losses and also avoid pollution and degradation of the environment, and report back in six (6) weeks for further legislative action