THE presidency, on Tuesday, said that graduates of petroleum institutes were driving illegal refining of petroleum products.
The government also said that it was planning to establish refining parks in states in the Niger Delta.
Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs Ita Enang, who disclosed this while speaking on Arise Television, said graduates of petroleum technology institutions in the country were behind rising cases of illegal refining in some Niger Delta states.
As a result of the development, the government intended to allocate crude to the graduates to refine in an environmentally friendly manner, he said.
Enang said, “At the recent conference, we had the principal and the managers of the Petroleum Training Institute tell us that the equipment that these people are using for illegal refining are fabricated by the graduates and those that trained in Warri.
“In fact, at the conference recently, they told us, ‘If you give us the crude, we will buy it and pay you. If you don’t give us, we will take it and it will be a loss to you and the environment will be polluted.”
He said the refinery parks which, would be located in the Niger Delta states, would absorb the illegal refiners and also reduce pollution of the environment.
“We are proposing a refinery park to curb the situation. The government will allocate some crude to them to refine legally at a cost and they will be guided.
“These people, whether we like it or not, have the technology, ability and the wherewithal and must be properly handled,” he added.
Enang said ongoing engagements between the states and the Federal Government on the issue would ensure intelligence sharing.
He noted that the government would understudy the progress recorded by the Rivers State government in managing the crisis of illegal refining and environmental pollution associated with it.
The presidential adviser said the method being used by the illegal refiners was polluting the environment.
According to Enang, “The persons engaged in this trade are not criminals. They are not ordinary artisans. They are not uneducated. Remember this country, through the Petroleum Development Fund, sent most of these children abroad to train them on petroleum technology.”
Enang added that some other persons were trained at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri, and Petroleum Technology Institute (PTI), Effurun, both in Delta State.
Some militants granted amnesty by former President Umaru Yar’Adua were also sent abroad for training on pretroleum refining.
Enang said governments of the respective states were working alongside the NNPC, the petroleum upstream and midstream regulation, and the Ministry of Petroleum to agree to allocate the crude to these persons in these refinery parks.
The ICIR reports that the cost of diesel is currently at N395 per litre, but illegal refiners sell at N95.
Analysts say there is huge niche market propelling their activities, suggesting that the government must engage them properly to avoid unnecessary pollution of the environment and economic loss.
“We must do everything to provide opportunities for people who are skilled in the oil sector but are not currently engaged. Recall the vice president in 2016 engaged these people. We must hasten every plan and engage them properly for the economic benefits of the country,” Associate Consultant to the British Department of International Development (DFID) Celestine Okeke told The ICIR.
The latest audit report made public in July 2021 by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, (NEITI) indicated that in 2019,Nigeria lost 42.25 million barrels of crude oil to theft valued at $2.77 billion.