An activist group in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region has called for the government to advance plans to allow illicit bush refineries to be converted into legal operations.
Nigeria is pushing to legalise such refineries in an attempt to soothe tensions in the Delta states, where an uneasy peace is now being kept as the government holds talks with local communities, including militants whose attacks cut oil production by as much as a third last year.
Nigeria’s government depends on oil sales for around two-thirds of its revenue.
The Pan Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF) said in a statement on Monday the government should “make bold its promises by relaxing all the bottle necks associated with licensing and other regulatory process” to allow illicit refineries to be converted into modular refineries.
The group also condemned the government’s move to concession large refineries in the cities of Port Harcourt and Warri to Italian oil major Eni and Nigeria’s MRS Oil without benefit for the people of the Delta.
The bush refineries, which support tens of thousands of people locally, are makeshift, blackened structures of pipes and metal tanks hidden in oil-soaked clearings, processing stolen crude from oil company pipelines.
Their legalization is one of the main demands of community leaders in talks with the government.
PANDLEAF, in its statement, also raised concerns about the lack of environmental clean-up in the wake of damage caused by oil pollution.
International oil companies should also relocate their Nigeria headquarters to the Delta, the group said.
(Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Paul Carsten; editing by Susan Thomas)