BY ANAYO OKOLI
Umuahia— Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State has accused a top traditional ruler and his people in Ukwa West Local Government Area of aiding illegal oil bunkering in their area.
His accusation came against the backdrop of activities of illegal oil bunkerers who allegedly lifted 150 trucks of oil from the area.
Orji, who was briefed on the development by the Divisional Officer of the Civil Defence Corps in the area, Mr. Ofondu Hyacinth, during his visit, vowed to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to book.
Orji said: “This is a pure case of economic sabotage. Those people, the company, if they were doing a legal job, they will not run away when they see securitymen.
“We are talking of lack of money; we are talking of our diminishing returns in terms of what comes to us in oil. Our oil production is going down every day without any- one knowing there are people who are sabotaging us.
“But today, nemesis has caught up with them. And, it is unfortunate that this particular community with the traditional ruler and every person will be here and this type of thing is happening and they never informed any person, including the security agencies. That is to say that they are conniving with these people to do what they are doing.
“The governor cannot be everywhere. That is why we have local government chairmen, traditional rulers; we have all of them at the grassroot level so they can bring information to governor to act upon. The quantity of crude oil that had been carted away here, if the money is given to this state, will be enough to tar this road.
“I am sure these tankers are responsible for destroying this road. Look at how bad this road is. They ply here on daily basis and tomorrow, villagers will be shouting government doesn’t want to repair their roads, yet somebody is spoiling that road and coming here to steal.”
Orji, therefore, ordered that the trucks abandoned by the fleeing bunkerers be moved to the police barracks, while investigations into the matter continued.
Orji, who also directed that security be beefed up in the area to avert a recurrence, said “let them come and show us the papers and prove to the whole world why they should be here drilling our oil illegally.
“It is very annoying. This type of thing cannot happen in Rivers State. I don’t know why our people are non-challant”.
The governor charged the people of Ukwa West to guard the oil wells in their area jealously, saying the oil belongs to the entire state.
“It is not your oil. It belongs to Abia state, so don’t treat it as if it is your personal property and begin to connive with oil companies to come here and steal our oil,” he warned.
The bunkerres, who claimed to have been given a license by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to lift oil in the area are still on the run.