Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), said it was time Nigeria embraced modular refining of oil and develop local capacity in the sub-sector.
Enang, who made this known when he featured on News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, said that rather than destroy “illegal refineries’’, the operators should be encouraged and regulated.
He said with plans by some developed economies to ban the use of petrol-driven cars in a few years, Nigeria should develop its refining capacity to stand up to any surprise that may come up.
He explained that if the use of electric cars was actualised in the near future, the countries refining Nigeria’s crude may stop refining, leaving the country with no option but to refine its crude.
According to the presidential aide, it is expedient for Nigeria to think ahead by developing and integrating the modular refineries.
“Some countries of the world have given notice that they are no more going to use petrol and some petroleum bye-products in a very short while.
“You know it is what they stop using that they will send to the third world countries and when they stop using petrol cars, they may also stop refining for you.
“This makes it absolutely necessary for us as a country to develop our refining capacity by integrating the local refineries and stop calling them illegal.
“Let us think of the cost of sending soldiers to these creeks, the cost of accommodating and equipping them to destroy the refineries,” he said.
He, however, stated that some people were taking advantage of the situation to enrich themselves.
“Why do some big men want to be posted to be in charge of those areas? In fact, only few of those refineries are destroyed and shown on camera.
“So, we better face the reality and regulate them, give them the license and crude. If you do not give them the crude they will take it any way.
“These people do not break the pipeline for the oil to spill; they break the pipeline to take the crude, so, if you give them the crude they will not break the pipeline.’’
Enang said contrary to beliefs that the operators of the “illegal refineries” had no technical know-how; most of them were graduates with detailed knowledge on refining of crude and an organised chain of activities.
He noted that, “the operators of these refineries in the creeks have trainees. The graduates among them train the other ones. There are those who go for the crude.
“There are those who see to the refining, there are those who manage the post-refining disposal and there are those who manage the relocation of the products.
“Also, there are those who manage the security. That is, those that relate with the appropriate persons to know when security agencies are coming for them to know when to move to another location.
“Besides, the crude being refined by these local refineries is in the market, particularly in the South-South.
“Some people have two generating sets – one is called the NNPC generator and the other is for the locally manufactured product and they sell them officially.’’
The special assistant added that if the modular refineries were given licenses to operate legally, it would go a long way in protecting the environment as well as create job opportunities.
He stressed that local refineries polluted the environment because they produced in very frenzy circumstances.
Enang explained that if they were allocated land, given licenses to produce and given protection, and their products bought by government and sold to Nigerians, it would help to develop the economy.
“The current approach makes it in such a way that they run from soldiers, Navy and other security operatives.
“In the process of running, they move with the refined products and leave the waste to damage the environment.
“Do not forget that we trained these children in petroleum refining and engineering, petroleum technology and other relevant fields.’’
Enang commended Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for visiting Delta, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to announce Federal Government’s intention to integrate the local refineries into the system.