By Nkasi Kolie
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has vowed not to spare anyone involved in the illegal bunkering and artisanal refinery activities that have caused the soot pandemic in the State.
Governor Wike, maintained that his administration would not succumb to any form of blackmail or sentiment that would be stirred by those perpetrators in an attempt to frustrate efforts at curbing such hazardous business.
The governor made the vow when he took a tour, making a long walk through the track roads into the forest of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area and the forest of Ibaa community in Emohua LGA to uncover some crude oil illegal refining sites.
He said:”They can’t be doing this and be killing my people. No reasonable government will allow that. And I can tell you with all due respect, we will take this matter very seriously.Look at how, everyday, in your house, you see the soot. I mean, how can you allow that? So, this one that we can solve, we will solve it.We have assured the people of Rivers State, we will fight this matter to the last until I leave office.”
He noted that confronting this seemingly cartel kind of business will not be easy. But, he has, however, vowed to consider it as a war-like situation and fight it from the standpoint of the law.
According to him, no matter how highly placed the perpetrators might be, they would not be spared, but confronted, apprehended and be made to face the full force of the law.
He has, therefore, directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to takeover the case files of illegal crude oil refinery operators arrested by the police.
“Attorney General, all these matters with the police, you have to retrieve the files, so that you can prosecute the matters on our own. I don’t want any compromise anywhere.
“And, then, too, it will not be on the ministry. You have to constitute a legal team. Go and get our friends all over the country. So that we can execute this prosecution to the last.
“It is a serious matter. And I’m going to take it head on. In fact, it is a war. It is not poor people doing this, they’re a cartel. You must go and arrest these people; Chief W. J. Wocha, you must arrest Fubara Ohaka, and Chief Promise Ezekwe. You must arrest them.
“It doesn’t matter how highly placed you are. If you like, be the paramount ruler. In fact, any traditional ruler that is involved, pick him for me. Let him understand that the law does not respect anybody.”
Speaking further, Governor Wike directed the Emohua Council chairman, Chidi Lloyd, to locate residences where processed crude oil products are stored and let the people ascertain their sources.
Governor Wike said the purpose of confronting this havoc was to ensure that the health of Rivers people is not further hampered by those illegal refining activities.
“If not our people will continue to die. Even you, you’re not safe from related sicknesses like cancer. All those products in the houses; you must go after them. They must tell you where they got the products. Enough is enough.
“Look at what is happening, they are dying. I want to live. So, we must stop this illegal refinery activities. I have said to the Federal Government, if you are not willing to do anything, don’t promise people anything. You told them that you would do something; how can you promise modular refinery?
“What I’m talking about is the safety of Rivers people. That is more important to me.”
Explaining the ugly experience community people had suffered, chairman of Emohua LGA ,Lloyd, noted that the problem of illegal refining activities in the area was beyond the capacity of the council to handle.
He wondered why the Federal Government which once promised to establish modular refineries in the Niger Delta region has reneged on that promise.