A member of the House Representatives, Mr Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma, said rather than destroy illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, Federal Government should license and regulate them.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday that the government should leverage on the skills of operators of the refineries to develop small outlets for refining crude oil for domestic use.
Agbonayinma, who represents Egor/ Ikpoba-Okha Constituency of Edo, said that his advice to government became necessary at the backdrop of failure of persons given licenses to build refineries by previous administrations, to do so.
He also said that it was because of the inability of the government to fix existing refineries and had resorted to sustained importation of petroleum proudcts.
He said that the number of illegal refineries being destroyed and the rate at which they resurfaced was evidence that the operators had some engineering skills that government should harness.
According to him, rather than destroying the so-called illegal refineries, government through the Ministry of Niger Delta, NDDC and Amnesty Programme should bring together the youths engaging in the illegal refinery and harness their technology.
“The activities of illegal refineries operators should be regulated, licenses should be issued to them and crude oil allocated to them based on their capacities.
“In the civilized countries, what to do is to bring all those youths and look for a way to harness their brains rather than to destroy the refineries.
“They are doing what government cannot do by consistently refining crude oil into petroleum products; they deserved to be assembled and encouraged to do it better, under regulation.
“Call them and ask what quantity each of them can refine and allocate it to them; let them refine it and let Nigerians benefit from it.
“Destroying the refineries and at the end of the day, they keep coming back, building new ones will not help. The resources used in destroying the refineries should be used to encourage them,” Agbonayinma said.
He said that the activities of Niger Delta youths were not the major cause of the low oil production or its availability in sufficient quantity.
According to him, contrary to the claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), multinational companies which collude with some elite in the country to siphon Nigerian crude through back door are the major problem.
“The NNPC is crying here that Niger Delta militants or avengers are the problem whereas the real problems are multinationals that are the core and real avengers.
“Go to Niger Delta area and see the pollution and the degradation; the farmers can no longer farm, the fishermen can no longer fish, and the youth resorting to ingenuity of refining crude which NNPC has failed to do.
“The refineries are not working because NNPC has refused to solve the problem or fix them.
“They have a reason for not fixing them; they refused to fix them because of their own selfish gains,’’ the lawmaker said.
Agboniyanma said that it was only Nigerians that could help to put a stop to the stealing of the country’s crude oil.
“NNPC knows that once the refineries start working fully, the means of stealing will stop; so they don’t want the refineries to work.
“Let NNPC be unbundled, that does not solve the problem,” he said.
The lawmaker also advised Nigeria to emulate the United Arab Emirate in the use of its oil sector for national development.
“Since British left, we have not been able to get it right. So, I will say that we should do what Dubai did.
“They have oil; they invited and negotiated with US government and their firms to help them to develop the country. They told US `come, see our oil, manage it for us and develop our country’.
“Dubai was a desert 10 or 15 years ago; today that same Dubai is where Nigerians go for holidays as well as send their children to for studies, while we are killing our country,’’ he said.
Agbonayinma said that Nigeria could also negotiate with its oil for a period of four or eight years contract to develop the county.
“We go into contracts because we don’t know how to run the government and so far, so good; we have run it and we have failed. Nothing works in Nigeria, and the laws are there.