By Kizito Duru
The Imo State Government has read the riot act on oil theft, pipeline vandalization and related offences in the oil producing areas in the state.
The Special Adviser and Coordinator Oil and Gas to Governor Hope Uzodimma, Rt. Hon Goodluck Opiah, disclosed this to pressmen today when he inaugurated the Taskforce on Illegal Oil Bunkering, on Wednesday, at Concorde Hotel, Owerri.
Opiah, a former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and former member of the House of Representatives, said that illegal bunkering of oil and pipeline vandalization posed a threat to human lives and properties, noting that such practice had led to explosions, leading to deaths.
The Coordinator complained that pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering reduced the standing of Imo State in the comity of oil producing states in the country, stressing that the quantity of oil produced in the state had reduced owing to oil theft and oil bunkering.
He warned that anyone caught by the Taskforce for any illegal activities relating to oil and gas in the state would face the law. He disclosed that the committee would have the backing and partnership of the security agencies in the state.
Opiah said: “We are faced with a serious issue from unpatriotic individuals and groups who continuously dare the government by involving in illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism. We will not fold out arms and allow them to have their way. We have declared war on them and you, the members of this committee, are our soldiers.
“The police and the army will partner with this committee. The government will provide the logistics and necessary support for the committee to deliver results. Our Governor means well for the oil producing communities, viz Ohaji Egbema, Oguta and Oru East Local Government Areas, and the idea is for this taskforce to help the Governor actualise his good intentions in the oil producing areas.”
The former House of Representatives member of Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta and Oru West Federal Constituency who charged the members of the Taskforce to discharge their duties with diligence and patriotism, advised them to shun extortion and other actions that would ridicule the state government.
Opiah revealed that the Taskforce had the approval of the state Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma even as he noted that any other Taskforce or persons undertaking same task were impersonators.
He insisted that the members of the Taskforce were chosen across party lines and based on merit.
“This is the only Taskforce recognised by the state government. This will put to an end the proliferation of taskforce in the state. in choosing members of this committee, there was little or no consideration for political affiliation. Our concern was to get the job done.” Opiah said.
Chairman of the 100 member committee, Desmond Ajuruchi (Odogwu Deka), in his acceptance speech assured the Governor of the best from the Taskforce.