Last Sunday, the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike in a state-wide broadcast, declared wanted those the governor said were ‘kingpins of bunkering and illegal crude oil refining activities in their communities’. The governor also said that ‘those behind illegal bunkering activities in Okrika communities, Port Harcourt Township, Rivers South-East and Rivers South-West Senatorial Districts and their names would be soon published and declared wanted, if they fail to voluntarily report to the police.’
In reaction to this, the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress APC said “while it appears that Gov Wike has finally hearkened to the overwhelming criticism by Rivers people and other concerned Nigerians that accuse the governor of not feeling concerned by the death by installment which soot has constituted to residents of the State, deeper and critical inquisition into the circumstances surrounding the phenomenon which has bedevilled lives of residents of the State, particularly Port Harcourt City, has revealed indirect large-scale complicity by the Rivers State Government in the menace.”
The APC made known that, “from 2015 to date, most major projects by the Rivers State Government since its inauguration are being executed by Julius Berger Nigeria Ltd. At the present peak of Julius Berger activities in Rivers State, the company consumes on the average about 300,000 litres of AGO per day. This has undeniably become one single biggest AGO consumption volume in Rivers State. Sadly, the entire volume of AGO is sourced from illegal refiners of the product locally called ‘kpofire’ and the reason is that Julius Berger in Rivers State buys AGO at between N220 and N240 per litre, whereas, the official ex-depot price of AGO from NIPCO and other major importers range from N315 to N350 per litre. With Julius Berger buying the product from illegal refiners below market minimum prices, a huge demand has been created for the kpofire (illegally refined) products. This naturally has encouraged so many people (young and old) to join the illegal refining business because of a thriving and ready market. The result is a burgeoning illegal refining business which has, in turn, heightened the level of soot descending on residents of Port Harcourt and environs, causing all manner of health problems for both the young and old, in the present and for the future.”
Rivers APC in a statement signed by its Spokesperson, Senibo Chris Finebone, expressed deep worry that “the hurried action of the governor in declaring some persons wanted and leaving out others, is typical of the kneejerk style of Gov Wike and will only scratch the problem on the surface without getting to its very roots with a view to stamping it out. The picture this action of the governor portrays is that of someone who is either not ready to act effectively and holistically or protecting some persons due to fear or self-interest. Who is the governor afraid of in declaring all suspects involved in the illegal business wanted in all the LGAs particularly those contiguous to Port Harcourt?”
The statement read further, “One of the altruistic attempts to stop the ravaging soot, once and for all, would have been for the governor to interrogate the supply chain management practices of its major contractor, Julius Berger, to ensure that it operates responsibly. However, we doubt whether the governor will act along that line as all the subcontractors who supply AGO to Julius Berger are linked to the governor who also recommended them to the company under local content participation.
“We have seen Gov Nyesom Wike, in his overzealous attempt to protect Julius Berger and their common business interests, brazenly sack his Cabinet Commissioner for Environment without replacement to this day.
“The roles of Messrs Juergen Fischer, Raymond Morisho & Samuel Ngbor
“Our investigations revealed that these three individuals anchor the procurement process and the liaison between Julius Berger and Gov Nyesom Wike regularly briefing the governor on the activities of Julius Berger in the State. Whereas the first two gentlemen are expatriates, the last, a Nigerian from Tai, Rivers State, acts as the PRO of the company and coordinates the company sub-suppliers. . Rather than undertake a poorly rehearsed declaration in the media, the governor should have used these individuals to ensure that Julius Berger, by their action, desisted from encouraging illegal refining by obtaining clean AGO from reputable dealers/suppliers instead of patronizing AGO sourced from the underworld at prices below market standard prices. What this means is that the more flyovers Julius Berger builds, the more soot we find in the air over Port Harcourt.
“For the ordinary residents of Port Harcourt, the story has remained that of increasing fear and uncertainty over the consequences of the ravaging soot on their health especially in the years to come. Rivers APC calls on Gov Wike to choose the protection of lives of residents of Port Harcourt and Rivers State over his interests in Julius Berger Nigeria Ltd and simply do the needful instead of embarking on cosmetic red herring with no purpose whatsoever.”