The authorities of the Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State, have said they have uncovered a pipeline used by illegal refiners to steal crude oil in Nonwa-Uedume community of the state.
The Executive Chairman of Tai LGA of the state, Mbakpone Okpe, disclosed this while speaking to journalists.
Okpe said the discovery of the illegal pipeline on a facility operated by oil and gas major, Shell Petroleum Development Company, followed a tip-off.
Okpe said he mobilised security operatives and council officials to the area where they discovered, but expressed dismay that no official from Shell has visited the scene even after he contacted the company.
He said, “This discovery cost me money to get the intel (information) and this access. That does not mean that Shell does not have operators that are doing surveillance for them.
“The Federal Government also has companies doing surveillance for them. I need to partner with them. I called Shell after I discovered this on their line.
“I wish they would come so that we can jointly collaborate to clamp down on it. It is not only discovering it but also closing it so that it doesn’t recur. Since then, Shell has not come. It is part of the problem I have been having with them.”
The LG chairman further said preliminary findings showed that there might be more of such illegal camps in the area, especially as several illicit oil bunkering activities were still ongoing there.
“As I speak with you, there are a lot of bunkering operations going on in some of the communities around here. Even when I discovered it and I called them (Shell) to come let us collaborate. It is their asset, not mine.
“I cannot risk my resources and my personnel in discovering this, at the end of the day the owners are not coming forward to take responsibility,” he stated.
Continuing, Okpe said, “This thing you are seeing happening here, if anybody tells you that the larger number of the population here are not aware of it, it is a lie.
“If you go beyond here to the far end, you will see another spot like this. So, how are we responding to it to ensure that people who are doing this thing will know that there are owners and the owners are protecting their property?’’
While decrying the continued stealing of the nation’s crude oil, the council boss said the problem had lingered due to the failure of the Federal Government to engage people with the expertise to secure the pipelines.
Okpe stated, “Instead of contractors that were asked to do surveillance on this line, even when I tried to call the owner of this line, they went into the community to recruit people.
“People who don’t even have better ideas of what transpired and they are paying them. They are doing nothing and they are not responding. They go through chiefs. You go to the houses and say you are getting men from chiefs.
“These chiefs don’t go out from their palace to the roads to know anything that is happening. The boys that can do this job are not contacted. They are not taken.”
When contacted, a spokesman of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Michael Adande promised to find out and get back to our correspondent but he had yet to give a feedback as of the time of filing this report on Tuesday evening.