The House of Representatives has urged the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to give licences to companies that are capable of operating refineries in the country.
The lawmakers said the policy will help to curb the activities of illegal refineries that are causing the current black soot experienced in Rivers State.
This resolution was reached by the House, following a motion of urgent public importance moved by Uyime Idem (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) on Tuesday during plenary.
Soot in Rivers
In the past couple of years, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and its environs have been experiencing black soot.
In his New Year address to the residents of the state, Governor Nyesom Wike had said illegal refineries are responsible for the soot.
He also alleged that security-agencies are working in connivance with the illegal refineries.
As part of measures to curb the illegal activities of the refiners, the governor directed all local government chairmen to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites.
Last week, Mr Wike accused the anti-vandal unit of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) of aiding and abetting illegal refiners.
Following the allegation, the Commandant-General of the NSCDC, Ahmed Audi, announced the immediate disbanding of the unit.
The governor had in 2018 claimed that the soot was caused by the destruction of illegal refineries by security agencies.
“We set up a technical committee to investigate the black soot problem. The committee’s report indicated that the black soot was largely a product of the destruction of illegal refineries by security agencies,” he said at the time.
Mr Uyime, in his motion, said the activities of the illegal refineries are causing negative impacts on the economy and health of the residents of the state.
“Illegal activities have sabotaged economic activities of residents of the area, caused severe health hazards on citizens, robbed the country of critical revenue, and aggravated the problem of pollution in the region
“Some security agencies and some influential individuals have been alleged of complicity in the activities of these illegal refineries in the Niger Delta region of the Country,” the lawmaker said.
Speaking in support of the motion, Luke Onofiok (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) said the government must provide alternatives for people.
He consequently proposed an amendment to the motion that the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation should support the development of licences.
“Without justifying the illegal refining, if you don’t see what to do, you will do what you see. My amendment is that we should insert a prayer to get the NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources and Ministry of Petroleum Resources to give licences for modular refineries and then to equally encourage these companies.
“If NNPC can vote over N600 billion for road construction, there is nothing wrong for NNPC to support the establishment of modular refineries, so that the individuals engaging in these activities can be curbed,” he said.
However, the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, raised a point of order that by virtue of the Petroleum Industry Bill, the DPR ceased to exist, while the NNPC is now a limited liability company.
According to Mr Monguno, the amendment by Mr Luke was null and an exercise in futility because nothing can be built on nothing.
“The amendment moved by Hon Luke is nulled and exercised in futility. Because based on the PIA, DPR is now defunct, while NNPC is now a limited liability company and it has no power to do what it is being asked to do,” he stated.
Isiaka Ibrahim (APC, Ogun) also moved an amendment for the existing modular refineries to be reviewed.
According to Mr Ibrahim, there are currently 52 modular licences and some of the licences have not been utilised.
Following a long debate on the motion, the House nevertheless resolved as follow:
-Mandate the Inspector General of Police Akali Usman and other relevant security agencies to immediately clampdown on the activities of these illegal refineries in the Niger Delta Region of the Country and prosecute those found culpable.
-Mandate the Federal Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Environment to urgently develop and implement modalities to clear off the soot currently experienced in Rivers State and other parts of the Niger Delta Region.
-Mandate the House Committees on Police Affairs, Navy, Army, Defense and Interior to investigate the alleged involvement of security agencies in the illegal oil refining in the Niger Delta Region of the Country.
The committees on Host Communities and Petroleum Resources (Downstream) were mandated to ensure compliance with the resolutions.
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