The European Union, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd (NNPC) and the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe, on Friday visited an illegal refining site in Rivers, to inspect the impacts on the environment.
The refinery, already destroyed by the JTF is located in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state.
The visit is for the EU, partners to assess things for themselves and how crude oil thieves set up illegal refineries and the adverse impact on the communities.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EU delegation comprises Ms Samuela Isopi, Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS; Ms Cecile Leeman Team Leader, Southern partnerships EU Commission.
Others are Mr Richard Young, Head of Division West Africa; Mr Thomas Kieler, Political Adviser, EU delegation to Nigeria; Mr Jerome Riviere, Programme Manager EU delegation to Nigeria; Mr Juan Sell, Ambassador of Spain to Nigeria.
Mr Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC, commended the JTF for their good work in the Niger Delta area, in safeguarding the nation’s oil and gas assets.
He said Nigeria would soon curtail the breaches, and that they came with the development partners to see how much work was going on and how they could help to bring sanity, restore oil production and security for everyone.
“It cannot happen unless we are able to work together with all the reports; we are also ready for our partners to see things for themselves and the efforts that are being made to curtail the situation.
“I commend the troops on ground, working to ensure that the nation’s oil and gas sector is secured.
“We believe by August we will be able to bring down the menace to a minimal level. It is not good for the community, it has a huge negative impact on the environment.
“Today the livelihood of the people here are impacted, people doing the business are not from the community, they are actually from other places.
“We are working with the community to take this out so that they can go back to their normal way of life.
“We are happy we are here today to see things for ourselves and our partners,” he said.
On his part, Rear Adm. Aminu Hassan, the JTF Commander, said within the period of three months, the taskforce destroyed more than 2,000 illegal refineries in the area.
He said: “In one site here you can get between 50 to 100 composite units where everyone is operating; just like a market, everybody is doing his illicit business in one market. So, that is how they operate.
“Within a refining site, you can get hundreds of units, everyone doing his own, within a week or thereabout you can succeed in destroying thousands.
“Mechanically we are destroying their machines which they are very fast in constructing.
“If you really want to supress them, you must be faster than them, work ahead of them, that is why we introduced these equipment, you will be on top of the situation to be ahead of them,” he said.
He said that the community was of great support to the taskforce.
“So, to a great extent we are getting support from the community, we are urging them to also avail us with more information,” he said.
He urged those indulging in such illegality to desist from such and find legitimate business, to better their lives.
Also, Mr Mathew Baldwin, Deputy Director General, European Union Commission, said they were on fact finding mission, adding that oil theft and illegal refining remained a big problem.
He commended the JTF and the NNPC, for the great work done to salvage and restore the Nigerian oil and gas sector. “We are here to find and understand the problem, if the production is used for the local market and if most of the production is going into the international market.