The renewed operations of the Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to protect oil facilities in the Niger Delta against illegal refineries have resulted to shortages of kerosene available to residents of Bayelsa State, and at rates that are "costlier than gas".

The kerosene scarcity began to manifest after a raid by the Operation Delta Safe on illegal refinery sites in Okaki, Rivers State, and Nembe in Bayelsa State.

Checks in Yenagoa indicated that the bulk of kerosene and diesel used by residents in Bayelsa were sourced from the two sites that were destroyed by troops.

It was further gathered that residents preferred kerosene sourced from the ‘local refineries‘ because it is cheaper and lasts longer than the ones sourced from the established distribution channels.

Mrs Ebiere James, a housewife, said the price of kerosene has increased astronomically within the past few weeks and made the commodity unaffordable to most households.

“The scarcity of kerosene has brought untold hardship to us in Bayelsa; kerosene is now costlier than gas. Before now, a 75 litres plastic bottle for the ‘Asari’ [illegally refined] sold for N100 but now it is N250," she said.

“The 150-litre bottle, which was sold for N200, now sells for N500. How then can we cope when the filling stations in Bayelsa do not stock the ‘white’ kerosene [legally refined] kerosene?

“The last time the NNPC mega station sold kerosene to the public in Yenagoa was in 2016. Now, the high cost of Asari kerosene is making people consider using gas but the cost of cylinders and gas stoves is another obstacle."

Mr Same Yabririfa, who sells kerosene, said the destruction of the bush refineries in Okaki and Nembe has adversely affected supply of locally refined kerosene.

“These two sites are the major sources of kerosene and diesel in Bayelsa because they supply us in large quantities; even tankers come and load there and you know that regular filling stations cannot stand their competition.

“I tried sourcing the ‘white kerosene' from a filling station and they told me that a 20-litre jerry can is N7,500, which amounts to N375/litre. If I buy at that rate, how much will I sell??

Speaking on the renewed clampdown on oil thieves, spokesman of the JTF in the Niger Delta, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the joint force recently introduced the use of heavy equipment to destroy the oil distillation sites.

He said that the special equipment deployed by the troops crush the items used at the camps and make it economically impossible for them to restart operations.

“The JTF has been carrying out massive metallic operations using swamp buggy against illegal refineries all over the joint operation area for over one month now," Abdullahi said. “This new strategy was recently deployed by Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi, in our operations and it makes it difficult for them to reassemble and resume operations after raids."

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