Nigeria cracks down on illicit oil refineries

Author: AFPMon, 2017-04-24 03:00ID: 1492981505011173100KANA RUGBANA: Nigerian commander Remi Fadairo points to the roiling plume of black smoke blotting the morning horizon in the Niger Delta — the unmistakable sign of an illicit oil refinery.“Let’s see if we can go eat them for breakfast,” he says with an ominous chuckle.The 44-year-old colonel, a man with broad shoulders wearing his fatigues tucked into gumboots, is standing in the middle of a destroyed illicit refinery in Kana Rugbana, an area in the swamplands some 20 nautical miles from Port Harcourt.Fadairo is part of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe, a coalition of Nigerian security forces tasked with protecting the country’s oil and gas infrastructure.Last year, militant attacks cut oil production to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, triggering Nigeria’s worst economic slump in 25 years.Following talks with the government, the militants have suspended their sabotage. But Nigerian troops on the ground say the battle is not over, it has just changed.Today, the military says one of its priorities is to crack down on the illicit refineries that they claim fund the operations of the militants.“The two are interwoven, if they are not doing militancy, they are doing this,” Fadairo tells AFP as he wades through crude-soaked muck.Despite the site looking like a scrap yard, Fadairo says it actually is being rehabilitated, showing new silver pipes welded to a rusted metal container.On the ground between iridescent oil puddles lay little sachets of gin, empty packets of instant noodles and cigarette butts left by the bush distillers.“We just destroyed all this but they are back,” says Fadairo. “They are trying to revive it.”The illicit refineries are just one component of oil theft in Nigeria, a mammoth industry estimated to be worth as much as $8 billion a year, according to a 2013 report by Chatham House, a London think-tank.“The principal security concerns are endemic corruption, which creates economic discontent, breakdown of the rule of law, which allows for criminality to be normalized, and the funding of militancy,” said Ian Ralby, founder of the I.R. Consilium, a security advisory firm.In the past month, Fadairo’s troops have destroyed more than 10 illicit refineries, which process oil stolen from the pipelines of multinational companies, including Shell and Eni, by heating it in car-sized metal containers.The waste is dumped into the surrounding swamplands, turning what should be a wetland paradise into a monochrome nightmare dominated by the white skeletons of dead mangrove trees.
Main category: Business & Economy

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