Local authorities in River State, South-South Nigeria have launched a crackdown against illegal oil refineries, in an attempt to halt the illegal refining of stolen crude.
Officials claim that illegal refining through the so-called “Kpo Fire” process is worsening air pollution in the Delta and causing respiratory problems in some residents.
Residents in Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt, have also blamed the makeshift oil refineries for chest pains and the black stains that appear of their handkerchief when they sneeze.
Chairman of the Ikwerre local government area in Port Harcourt, Samuel Nwanosike, said 128 of the 142 illegal refineries identified by authorities in the area have been destroyed.
“We (will) continue to destroy until all illegal refining sites in our communities are destroyed completely,” he said during a raid of some illegal sites in Port Harcourt.
In the Niger Delta, high unemployment has made illegal crude refining an attractive business. The crude is tapped from pipelines owned by oil companies and burnt at high temperatures in makeshift tanks.
The hazardous process intensifies pollution in an area that has been plagued by oil spills for decades and has destroyed farms, creeks and lagoons.
There have been calls for the government to fund small refineries, as they are cheaper and easier to operate, as a means of creating jobs and ending illegal refining.