President Buhari orders arrest of owners of illegal refinery in Imo state



Oredola Adeola


President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the security agencies to  arrest sponsors of the illegal crude oil refinery in Abaezi forest, in Imo state, asking them to serve justice on the perpetrators. The President gave this directive through a statement released by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, on Sunday.


The President’s order was in reaction to the death of over 100 people after the illegal refinery exploded on Friday, leaving many others wounded.


According to Garba Shehu, the President has directed the nation’s armed forces, security and intelligence agencies to intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries following the reported deaths of tens of people Friday night after an illegal refinery exploded at Abaezi forest in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.


Reacting to what he described as a “catastrophe and a national disaster,” President Buhari said responsibility for the loss of lives and property must squarely lie with the sponsors of the illegal refinery, “who must all be caught and made to face justice.”


In conveying “the condolences and the full depth and range of the nation’s shock and trauma” to the families of the victims, the Ohaji Egbema community and the government and people of Imo State, the President urged community leaders, the police, and the secret service to never allow the occurrence of the heart-breaking incident in any part of the country again.


Earlier, Goodluck Opiah, Imo State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources,  who visited the area on Saturday, claimed one Okenze Onyenwaoke, owned the illegal refinery. He thereafter asked him to make himself available to the police immediately for causing the what he described as an unfortunate incident.


Mr Opiah decribed illegal oil bunkering as a “suicidal business, alleging that most of the people engaged in the act are from Rivers, Bayelsa and other neigbouring states.


The Imo state Commissioner said, “It is sabotage for our people to allow this illegal act to continue. Apart from this calamity, the act has destroyed the aquatic life in the community. Our people before now were predominantly farmers and fishermen.


“Look around, you will find smoke coming from this illegal act. If this is not enough for any person to stop, I think the community is heading for what I can’t describe,” said Mr Opiah.


Nyesom Wike, Rivers State Governor, has in recent time been campaigning against bunkering and illegal refining in the state. He has mobilised special anti-bunkering task force to destroy 27 illegal refinery sites across the state.


EnergyDay’s check shows that thousands of illegal refineries located across some of the oil producing communities have been identified by the security operatives.


The illegal refineries it was gathered employ average of 30 workers and about 200 drums of Petrol, Diesels and other refined petroleum products are produced daily.


Findings show that in one local government alone in River States, more than 100 illegal refineries were discovered and, in another, there were at least 35, potentially affecting the livelihoods of thousands of young people.