President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered Nigerian security agencies to step up a crackdown on illegal refineries in the country.
The directive follows the explosion that rocked an illegal refinery on Friday night in the Abaezi forest in the Ohaji-Egbema local government area. IMO State.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that dozens of people were killed and several other people injured in the incident.
In a statement from his spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Sunday, Mr Buhari described the incident as “a catastrophe and a national disaster”.
The president pointed out that security agencies have been instructed to step up the crackdown on illegal refineries.
He said responsibility for the loss of life and property “must rest entirely with the sponsors” of the illegal refinery, saying they “must all be arrested and brought to justice”.
The President conveyed “condolences and the full depth and breadth of the nation’s shock and trauma” to the families of the victims, the community and the people of the state.
Mr Buhari urged community leaders and Nigerian police personnel to take action to ensure that such a “heartbreaking incident” does not happen again in any part of the country.
Illegal crude oil refining has become a lucrative business, primarily among residents of oil-producing states, despite its dangerous consequences.
More than 100 people were burned beyond recognition in Friday’s explosion.
The incident occurred months after the scores were would have been killed in an oil explosion at another illegal refinery in Rivers State in October.
The theft of oil, known as “bunkering” in local parlance, has been a source of concern for many stakeholders across the country.
The Nigerian government is would have lost about 4 billion dollars annually due to oil theft activities.
In Rivers State, air pollution, particularly soot in and around Port Harcourt, the state capital, has been attributed to the operation of illegal oil refineries.
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