By Friday Obande
Imo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Declan Emelumba on Tuesday described operators of illegal refineries and bunkering in the state as “seasoned criminals and cabals.”
Speaking during a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, the commissioner stated that the perpetrators of those businesses are criminals and have mastered their trades, being able to occasionally escape unnoticed or unseen around Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, which has a boundary with Rivers State.
The commissioner said that the government of the state has been aware of such illegal refineries involved in bunkers, and it is working hard to bring all of such activities to an abrupt end.
“We are dealing with seasoned criminals, a coordinated cabal which the government of IMO State is fighting to end,” he said.
Emelumba also stated that illegal refineries and bunker business has always been prevalent in the area but gave the assurance that the government will in collaboration with the relevant security agents stamp such activities out of the state.
According to him, rumours making rounds purport that there are influences behind the sponsor of those illegalities, as he denied government’s involvement in sabotaging the oil fields i n the state.
“Nobody in this government is profiting from illegal refineries or bunkering.
“The state government has set up a committee to collaborate with security agencies to stamp out the activities of illegal refineries as a matter of mandate.
“But I know that in an organised crime such as an illegal bunker, it will not be possible for the same government to set up a committee to collaborate with security agents to stamp it out to partake in such an act.
He expressed his condolences to the families and loved ones of the alleged unidentified 110 casualties in the inferno but added that, “No matter how sad and regrettable the situation is, all those who went there, went on illegality to sabotage the economy of this country.”
“In as much as the government regrets that they died in the process, we must also acknowledge the fact that they themselves toed the path because they knew that what they were doing was illegal but decided to embark on it, which was suicide.
Also reacting to the situation, Head of National Emergency Management Agency in the state, Ifeanyi Nnaji said death tolls from the mishap still stands at 110 and added that more casualties could be recorded in the process.