Wike Declares War on Artisanal Refineries, Traditional Rulers and Scavengers

Kote Obe, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has declared total war against illegal artisanal refining of crude oil in Rivers State. This followed cries by residents that soot generated from the refineries is causing health and environmental damage to the people.

The governor made the declaration in his New Year message to the people of the state on Saturday.

In this respect, he has ordered the Chairman of Port Harcourt Local Government, Hon. Allwell Ihunda, and chairmen of all other local governments where illegal refining of crude oil is taking place to shut down the refineries with immediate effect.

He has also directed all council Chairmen and community leaders to locate, identify and report to his office all those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities for prosecution.

The governor said he was intervening now because of the failure  of the Federal Government and its security agencies to rein in those behind illegal oil bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners in the State.

“As a State Government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated,” he said.

The governor said the State government has equally appealed without success to persons engaging in this illegal business to consider its negative effects on the economy, environment, public safety and public health and disengage from it.

He threatened to depose first class traditional rulers in the state that have failed to attend official functions of the state. He particularly mentioned the Amayanabos of Okrika, Ogu and Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana, whose actions he noted denoted insubordination.

“Therefore, the consistent absence of some first class traditional rulers, especially the Amayanabo of Okrika, the Amayanabo of Ogu, the Amayanabo of Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana from participating in State functions is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.

“Should they therefore continue to absent themselves from State functions or in the regular meetings and activities of the State Traditional Rulers Council, we would have no option than to direct their immediate replacement.”

The governor commended the security agencies for working round the clock to make and keep the State peaceful, safe and secure throughout 2021. And to make the State safer, he said government will from the second week of January 2022 commence  demolition of all shanties and makeshift structures in identified crime hotspots in Port Harcourt, particularly the Illabuchi areas of Diobu.

He warned that all those involve in illegal trading or attempting to resume illegal trading activities at the closed Oginigba slaughter have one week to vacate or be arrested and charged to court.

Governor Wike stated that government will take over most vacant plots or uncompleted buildings in the Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRA) and some other parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor councils  that have been hijacked and inhabited by criminal elements.

The governor said government shall recover and restore all landfilled or reclaimed wetlands and demolish all structures erected on natural water channels spanning from the Eastern bypass areas up to Abana and Eleme streets in Old GRA as part of measures to check perennial flooding challenge in parts of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor councils. Adding that only those with genuine government permits and allocation papers will be duly compensated.

Governor Wike announced the immediate ban on activities of cart pushers  who have become notorious for indiscriminate scavenging of manhole covers and directed law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to violate this ban.

He further ban the disposal of refuse on the streets or open spaces in both the Old and New GRAs of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor councils; posting of posters, fliers, pictures, artworks, placards or inscriptions on or under on flyovers, bridges, concrete walls and the safety barricades along the roads. Adding that government will establish environmental marshals to enforce compliance with State sanitation laws.

The governor directed the Chairmen of Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo councils to within three weeks from 1st January, impound and or remove any trailer and articulated vehicle packed on the streets beyond 48 hours in their respective administrative jurisdictions.

Concerned about the operations and socially harmful activities of nightclubs within residential areas of the State,  the governor has placed an immediate ban on all nightclub activities, including night-time trading and street prostitution along Abacha road and surrounding streets in Port Harcourt to stop the harmful effect of these depraved activities on the moral development of children and society at large.

“No responsible government should continue to tolerate the open display and solicitation of sexual services, drug abuse and public intoxication that takes place along the streets and public areas abutting some of these nightclubs, lounges and bars by the youths, some, as young as under 14 years.”

The governor expressed sympathy to the victims of the recent fire incidences in the State, especially those who lost loved ones and valuable property. He said government will continue to strengthen the State Fire Service and urged members of the public also take responsibility to prevent or avoid some of these fire incidents from happening.

Governor Wike expressed concerned over the poor compliance with the existing Covid-19 protocols by citizens and the effect on the transmission of the disease in the State. He enjoined all residents to make themselves available for testing and vaccination whether it is for your first, second or booster jab.

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