The Federal Government says it is planning to legalise illicit
oil refineries in the turbulent Niger Delta region, hoping to bring peace
to the production heartland for the crude on which the country
If the refineries are legalised, it could help soothe
tensions in the Delta states, where an uneasy peace is now being
kept as the government holds talks with local communities,
including militants whose attacks cut oil production by as much
as a third last year.
Nigeria’s government depends on oil sales for around
two-thirds of its revenue.
“Under the plan that is being developed, communities would
come together working with their respective state governments,
the federal government and private sector operators to work out
a template for the establishment of modular refineries in the
communities,” said the statement from the vice-presidency.
The legalised refineries must be structured “in a way that
works for business or structure it in a way that is realistic
and works, otherwise it would not last … it is a business
proposition first and foremost, it must make sense,” said
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, according to the statement.
The bush refineries, which support tens of thousands of
people locally, are makeshift, blackened structures of pipes and
metal tanks hidden in oil-soaked clearings, processing stolen
crude from oil company pipelines.
Their legalisation is one of the main demands of community
leaders in talks with the government.
A security crackdown has risked driving hundreds of young
men from the refineries into the militant groups that have been
attacking legitimate oil facilities in an attempt to force the
government to allocate more money to the impoverished region.
“We are saying there is a way out of violent agitation, but
it is by creating opportunities and the environment where the
people in the communities can benefit,” Osinbajo said, according
to the statement.