Ogoni ex-artisanal refiners popularly called “kpor-fire” have openly informed the Federal government that they will not leave illegal refining except they see commitment on the side of the government to empower them through any means that could enhance their living standard.
They disclosed that after some of them were delisted from pipelines surveillance by government agencies, illegal refining became the only source to earn a living, adding that it was from the illegal business that they carter for their family and love ones.
The former illegal refiners made their position known during a one-day consultative meeting with the Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibrin, organized by the office of the Project Coordinator, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in Port Harcourt.
The ex-artisanal refiners in Ogoni who were led by Mr. Elvis Ikoma and Domka Humphrey told the Minister, Alhaji Jibrin who represented the Federal government on the consultative meeting that they can only leave illegal refining when federal government shows commitment on their livelihood.
Though, they also told the Minister that if they were not committed to support Ogoni cleanup none of them would honour his invitation, stressing that some of them have already left the illegal refining after HYPREP Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil approached them to stop.
One of the ex-artisanal refiners, Domka Humphrey said, “Sir, I will tell you our minds, if you don’t empower us we will not stop refining, because this is what we use to feed our family and relatives. We don’t have anything doing after government takes away the pipeline surveillance from us.
“So, we need to be carried along, some of us are graduates, many people are still in the bush refining, if you empower us, we will talk to them and they will leave the bush. But where we are not seeing anything it would be very difficult for us to leave the illegal refining.”
Responding, the Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibrin said he was happy that they opened up their minds, adding that illegal refining is not only dangerous to the environment but to those who are engaging in it.
The Minister promises that the Federal government in partnership with the Ministry of Petroleum and the office of the HYPREP Coordinator will ensure that they are trained with the aim to secure their livelihood
Jibrin said: “I have heard all of you, I’m assuring you that the issue will get to the Acting President, but remember that you have fishes of all kinds, animals, we cannot get them if you contaminate the water with hydrocarbon pollution.
“We need the mangrove, because we use it for firewood, but it is in our own interest to keep our environment clean, it is in our own interest to ensure that whatever we must do we have to take care of our environment.
“That is why the federal government has taken the issue of Modular refinery serious, it is community base, it is authority. It is going to be regulated. There is need for us to organize ourselves into responsible cooperatives.
“Whether they are community or local government base but there is need to have something that would regulate us. And with your support I am assuring you that the Federal government is determine through HYPREP to support your training and empowerment. But you must be at the front to drive the process”.