Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has ordered all the 23 local council chairmen to hire bulldozers and destroy every identified illegal crude oil bunkering and artisanal refinery sites in the state.
Mr Wike gave the order on Wednesday in a statement issued by media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, after meeting with the council chairmen, the State commissioner of police and the commandant of the civil defence in Port Harcourt.
He also asked the Commissioner of Police in the state, Eboka Friday, to provide adequate security for the council chairmen as they embark on the mass destruction of illegal refinery sites.
Mr Wike had issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the chairmen on January 14 to provide him with a comprehensive list of all illegal refinery sites and their operators within their area.
The governor said with the receipt of the list of identified illegal refinery sites, the state government would provide financial support to the local government area chairmen to hire bulldozers and swamp buggies for the purpose of destroying all the sites.
“I will not relent in this fight. And all of you should hire bulldozers. All those areas where the illegal refinery sites are in the bush, in the creek, clear the place. Government will give you some money to go and hire bulldozers to go and clear the sites so that they will know we are serious,” he said.
Governor Wike said the government will not allow those engaged in illegitimate business to operate in Rivers.
“One thing I want to say and which is very clear, and like everybody knows, I am not against anybody making money. But we cannot allow people to make money, while others are dying,” he stated.
The air pollution in Rivers, especially the soot in Port Harcourt and its environs, has been attributed to the operation of illegal oil refineries in the state.
Mr Wike said since the state government intensified the fight against illegal refinery operators the air quality in parts of the state has “improved remarkably”.
He said he was mindful that the cartel behind these illicit businesses would make effort to compromise security agents in the state.
The governor, therefore, warned that he would personally visit the inspector general of police, the commandant general of the civil defence and the chief of army staff in Abuja, to report any of their personnel implicated in illegal crude oil bunkering and artisanal refinery activities in the state.
“You know in Nigeria, we don’t believe that anything can happen. We don’t take government seriously, but in our own case, they have no choice, they’ll take us seriously,” the governor said.
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