BURUTU, a local government area in Delta State, should hold the world record for refineries. According to the Joint Task Force (on security), 10 hamlets in this local government area have 400 refineries – all illegal.

JTF is proud of its most recent successful operation that destroyed these refineries. “The operation was a success and it will continue until all illegal refineries are wiped out from our area of operation because the JTF has zero tolerance for illegal bunkering,” Col. Jarmil Sarham, Commander of JTF Sector I told the media.

Destruction of illegal refineries is a ritual the JTF has been engaged in for as long as it existed. There are low chances of wiping out “all illegal refineries”. It is important that government deals with illegal bunkering (oil theft) that results in loss of revenue by broadening its appreciation of thechallenge.

Occasional attacks on “illegal refineries” will not stop bunkering, which in the main thrives on crude oil theft for export. Burutu’s “illegal refineries”, like others the JTF has destroyed in parts of the Niger Delta have their origin in product scarcity and the ingenuity of the people in finding solutions to their problems that ordinarily should be government’s concern.

Product scarcity is more acute in the creeks and the people have to survive hence their innovative solution.  We are not supporting illegality. We are not justifying illegal oil bunkering, but there are issues government should address.

Has government bothered to find out what technology the indigenes use to refine these products? Are these products safe for use? Instead of destroying these “illegal refineries” can government partner with the owners to ensure steady product supply to some parts of Nigeria? Would destroying these refineries stop oil bunkering?

If 10 hamlets can harbour 400 refineries that are running (without long stories of turn around maintenance) should government not seek ways of making their operations legitimate? Should the concerns not be more for the safety of the people, the fidelity of the products and ensuring the crude they use is obtained legally?

By JTF’s accounts, it destroyed about one million litres of petrol, that would be enough to fill 30 tankers with a capacity of 33,000 litres. The national daily usage of petrol is estimated at 30 million litres daily.

Is it possible that Burutu’s refineries can save Nigeria the costs of importing one million litres of petrol? Is there nothing appealing enough in this for the authorities to change the approach from destroying the facilities?

Our country is in dire need of solutions. The rampage of the JTF in those villages is not a solution to illegal bunkering or an answer to the proliferation of refineries in the creeks.

The answers lie in converting the skills of our people to legitimate enterprises. Burutu is really an opportunity, not a threat.


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