Michael John Williams, Chairman of Degema Local Government Area spoke with EDITH CHUKU on his efforts in the fight against Kpofire in his domain.
How entrenched and deep is the kpofire business in your local government?
It’s very high, very high in my local government. We are doing our best to curb it. We are doing our best to put it back to shape so that it doesn’t happen again. We’ve declared war against kpofire, and we will continue to raid and destroy illegal oil bunkering sites. For us in Degema Local Government, we will not tolerate this menace, we will in all commitment to this fight continue to raid and destroy artisanal refining sites; that we must do.
Fortunately, we have the support of community members, including chiefs and youths. So, we will continue to declare zero tolerance to this illicit act in the LGA.
We will no longer keep silent and watch, while some group of recalcitrant individuals, commit crimes against the state and humanity in general through economic sabotage and generating deadly soot, that poses serious health challenge to people of Rivers State and beyond.
I urge everyone to follow the footstep of our father, the Amanyanabo of Bille Kingdom, HRH King Igbikingeri Ngowari, Cornelius Herbert, Agbaniye-Jike XVIII and sensitize the people against involving in the illegal activity and report locations where the kpofire operations are taking place.
Ours is to carry out the mandate of the governor, to do the needful and stop this illegal activity that is threatening our very existence as humans inhabiting in this grossly polluted environment of ours.
What is the most shocking discovery as you go around trying to destroy the kpofire sites?
You know, I’ve not been to kpofire sites before, but what I saw there is that, if it continues for more three years the country is collapsed. The artisan work there, I don’t know where they had that brain to construct that very particular thing to put these products, I was shocked, in fact, even till now, I am still shocked.
What kind of country are we living in? I am still very shocked till today? If you see the level of degradation in our once flourishing and endowed environment, you will understand the reason why our mothers and fathers can no longer easily get fishes, prawns, shrimps, periwinkles, oysters and other rich sea foods in our nearby creeks, without going far into the ocean.
Do you see promoters of the business giving up just like that?
I don’t know about that because I have not discussed with them, if I have discussed with them that’s when I will know about that, my own is to take the governor’s mission to the latter.
Are there plans to rehabilitate the people that are being pushed out of kpofire business?
That one, it’s the governor and the federal government that will know.
Is your life under any threat as a result of the recent moves to dislodge the perpetrators of kpofire business?
I can tell you for free that nobody have threatened my life, nobody has threatened my life, knowing that what they are doing is illegal, I think they are all seizing to do it because if you don’t seize to do, the governor has passed instruction that even their property will be seized. So, nobody wants to have his property that he has struggled to earn to be seized. Nobody, no one person has threatened me, that one I can say for free.
How deeply involved are security agents in promoting this illegal refining of crude oil in your local government?
I don’t know any security man that is involved, kpofire is not my business, my business is to bring it to a halt. It is not my business so I don’t know any security man that is involved, my business is the fulfilment of the governor’s instructions. Kpofire has endangered lives, harmed our health, our environment. So, we are on the move to bring it to a stop. I don’t know anybody that is involved, but I see people that, even the security when the products are moving on the street, the police stop them, collect money from them and then allow it go. I see it, the one I see I will talk. So, they are accomplices to the crime, because if they stop them and collect money from them, it’s an encouragement. But if you stop, and you seal, and they confiscate, it won’t go further again, when they see you, they will not do it again. But when the production point is free and the selling point is equally free, that means there is encouragement everywhere.
Imagine you are having a one on one with the Rivers State governor, what will you tell him, as regards kpofire business in the state?
I will thank him, and my thank you message is that God Almighty should enhance him, bless him, protect him for Rivers people because he is fighting a good fight. God should protect, bless, guide him for Rivers people because Nyesom Wike is God’s sent to Rivers people and he is doing the rightful thing for Rivers people, always protecting us. I want to again, appeal to people to cooperate with government to end this menace and restore our ecosystem for the benefit of the present and future generations.