Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has called on traditional rulers in oil-producing states of the federation to speak up against crude oil theft and identify perpetrators of the heinous crime in the interest of the country.
Governor Oshiomhole, who made this known while playing host to monarchs from the South-South geo-political zone at the Government House in Benin City, decried the level of environmental degradation in the region and the huge loss of revenue incurred by the government as a result of the operations of illegal refineries.
While lamenting that the nation’s wealth was being dislodged by a few unscrupulous individuals, who did not appreciate and believe in the principle of hardwork, the governor urged the monarchs to assist in checking the menace in the region.
Oshiomhole said, “I think Your Royal Majesties have a role to play to lend your voice against oil theft because it is destabilizing the country and creating huge environmental challenges, which we will confront when we may not have the resources to do so.
“When the oil dries up when it will dry up, the damage already done to the environment will persist and the resources that will be required to regenerate the environment to deal with the consequences of the pollution may not be available.
“Across the South-South, too many of our people who want quick money are involved in crude oil theft. In Edo State, around Agbede, it’s not an oil producing area but for some strange reasons, there are all kinds of illegal refineries there polluting and destroying a place that is ordinarily very suitable for agriculture.
“Being in government, there are things I no longer can say. But that does not mean that those things are not in my heart. I am worried about what appears to be a free hand for criminals to help themselves with our common patrimony called oil and gas.
“One of the long term consequences of this kind of situation is that you have small-small boys of very little exposure, having access to huge resources that is not the result of hard work. And because they are criminal in nature, and the volume and sum involved is huge, they have enough money to raise an alternative army to procure the deadliest weapons in order to defend their territory, which is basically an area they have carved out for the purpose of that heinous crime.
“I am very worried about the future of our country if few people take so much and the rest of us in the country have so little to share and these people are not invisible. If the volume of oil smuggling is so much and you know the amount, it means you should know the smugglers.
“Nigeria must find the courage to speak truth to power, including traditional power and if any of us, president, governor, minister or traditional ruler fouls the atmosphere, we should be dealt with according to law. Nigeria is greater than any of his sons”.
On local government administration, Oshimhole advocated new reforms to make local governments more responsible, adding that “most of the local government reforms are the outcome of ill-digested military solution to far more complex problems.”
Earlier, Chairman of the South-South Monarchs Forum and former Minister of State Petroleum Resources, HRM, Chief Edmund Daukoru, in his remarks, explained that the monarchs were in Benin to hold a meeting and present copies of the book launched by the forum at its conference.
He said, “Our institution is one that can effectively partner with government to penetrate down to the grassroots level and we can’t do that if we stay in our respective palaces. If we never get to meet, we never get to exchange ideas”.