Workers of National Emergency Management Agency during an operation to extinguish a fire caused by pipeline vandalism in Arepo, Ogun State. Inset: Some of the kegs recovered from vandals.

Workers of National Emergency Management Agency during an operation to extinguish a fire caused by pipeline vandalism in Arepo, Ogun State. Inset: Some of the kegs recovered from vandals.
| credits: Odutayo Odusanya and NEMA

A group, the Community Oil Refinery Operators,   has asked the Federal Government to grant its members amnesty.

The group said only amnesty , with   accompanying financial gratifications and empowerment, would stop its members from breaking pipelines and setting up illegal refineries.

In  an e-mail statement made available to journalists by its spokesman, White Tamana,  on Wednesday, it also asked the government to replace the refineries, boats and houses of its members damaged by security operatives.

It said  setting up illegal refineries was to help government create jobs for millions of people across the country.

Rather than destroying the refineries, the group  advised that the government should either encourage its members or generate employment for the youth.

The group also asked the government to release its members in detention  and convey a roundtable for dialogue.

It warned the government against unleashing security operatives on its members, saying nothing would stop it from breaking pipelines and stealing crude oil except amnesty.

The group said its members were better placed to receive amnesty than members of the terrorist sect, Boko Haram.

The statement read, “Local refinery operators are the main agitators in Niger Delta.  The struggle is divided into two perspectives, the militants and the oil refinery operators.

“The government has only succeeded in identifying with militants, but not knowing that we are stronger  than  militants. The government mistake us for  militants but we are different and  that is why amnesty offer to militants does not stop  bunkering and local refinery operations.

“Our operation gives us a sense of belonging. This is the only way we benefit from our national cake. We don’t steal oil. The oil in the  region is our property. It is the Federal Government that is stealing from us with their animalistic laws of onshore and off-shore dichotomy.

“We have decided that we will  ground Nigeria’s economy  by stopping  the government from exploiting us, if amnesty is not given to us.

“We are not happy that our people die of hunger and epidemic diseases  due to  oil exploration and exploitation, while others enjoy our oil money freely without looking back.

“We must take what belongs to us by force and any attempt to stop our operation by force will lead to another militancy in the region which will be worse than what we are seeing today.

Commenting on the development, the Ijaw People Development Initiative, appealed to the government to give legal  backing to  illegal refineries in the country.

The President of the group, Mr. Austin Ozobo, said such illegal  refineries had empowered over 50,000 youths in the region.

He asked the government to critically examine such refineries with a view to  making use of them to meet the country’s need for refined petroleum products.

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