A university don, Professor Ben Naanem of the department of economic history at the University of Port Harcourt, River state, has called for the regularization and standardization of the ‘illegal refineries’ as a means of checking oil theft and bunkering in Nigeria.   

His call comes on heels of a similar one yesterday by a lawmaker from the House of Representatives, Hon Kingsley Uju-Chima. The lawmaker who represents Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Oru Federal Constituency, where the illegal oil refinery blast killed over 112 victims last Friday, had called for the legalization, and reintegration of artisanal refineries into the country’s refining regulations of the oil and gas industry.

Hon. Uju-Chima had said that the proposed artisanal refinery integration is a possible, permanent solution to the menace associated with illegal oil bunkering.

Professor Naanem, who is also the director of Niger Delta Environment and Relief Fund (NDEREF), submitted that there is the need for new thinking and action on regularizing the illegal refining sector and drafting modalities to achieve it.

Presenting an interim report on ‘Combating Upstream Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism in Nigeria: Using International Best Practices,’ at a summit in Port Harcourt, Prof Naanem argued that Nigeria’s modular refinery is capital intensive and therefore, cannot be a sustainable option to ending oil theft.

He said that the modalities for regularising the illegal refining sector will be beneficial because it can service the local economy, improve technology and boost revenue generation.

“This will enhance government revenues by taxing regularized operators, ensuring significant employment opportunities and enhancing local capacity in refining,” he said.

He faulted the measures adopted by the federal government and international oil companies in the fight against oil theft in Nigeria, stressing that the measures are not yielding results.

According to him, there is inadequate capacity and compromise by agencies saddled with the responsibility to fight the crude oil thieves. Prof Naanem posited that the deep involvement of the elite and failure of the judicial system to speedily prosecute oil theft suspects, among other factors, are part of the reasons the fight against crude oil in the country continues to fail.

He appealed to the federal government to develop the political will, like the Mexican government, to eradicate the crude oil theft and vandalism in the country. He noted that when the Mexican government dealt with natural disasters within six months, oil theft and spills stopped.

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