Mr Pat Obiene, an environmental rights activist, wants the Federal Government to allow only former operators of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta, own the proposed modular refineries in the region.
Obiene, the Director of the Institute of Environment, an NGO based in Yenagoa, made the call in an interview with newsmen in Yenagoa on Sunday.
According to him, the Federal Government originally planned to leave the ownership of the proposed refineries in the hands of the operators, resident in the oil producing communities.
Newsmen recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during his tour of Niger Delta in February, announced federal government’s plan to establish modular refineries in the region to stop illegal refining.
Osinbajo said that modular refineries, when established, would also bring more development to the Niger Delta region.
Part of government’s plan is for former operators of the outlawed refineries to form cooperatives and get involved in the ownership and operation of the modular refineries.
The activist however alleged that there were some groups within the region advocating a collective ownership of the proposed modular refineries by host communities.
Obiene alleged that the proposed community ownership was a ploy by the groups to hijack the scheme from the artisanal refinery operators who were the real targets of government’s plan.
“Such moves to keep ownership in the hands of elite are capable of causing complete failure and disintegration of the lofty vision of government aimed at ensuring smooth oil production.
“The claim by such groups that they had Memoranda of Understanding with the host communities to collectively obtain 10 licences for the initial take-off of the refineries is very suspicious,” he said.
Obiene said the hallmark of government’s plan as announced by the vice president was the granting of independence to groups to form and run their companies, using their acquired skills.
“An idea of a central body applying for licences and intending to run all the artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta negates this principle and must be resisted.
“We call on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) to maintain the original intention of liberalising ownership of modular refineries to enhance development.
“We in the Institute of Environment received a written commendation from the ministry on our report on strategy to assist federal government to implement its goal on modular refineries in the Niger Delta.
“The ministry affirmed its commitment to the guidelines for the establishment of hydrocarbon processing plants activities on the Big Win 4 road map.
“What these meant was that each community or co-operative society was encouraged to organise and run businesses as independent entrepreneurs.
“We passionately appeal that the plan is not allowed to derail,” Obiene said.