The Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa has on Wednesday, called on the aggrieved Gbaramatu Kingdom and Itsekiri in the Escravos area of Warri South-West LGA to sustain dialogue to achieve a win-win outcome with the Federal Government (FG), over pending demands.
This call is coming against the backdrop of the 10 days ultimatum given to Federal Government by the community to shut down oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta if their demand is not considered.
Recall that, the Itsekiri community had in a statement signed by Mr Besidone Samuel, spokesman of Itsekiri Oil/Gas Producing Communities, stated that, if the Escravos Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Deep Sea Port in Gbaramatu in Warri South-West LGA, Omadino-Escravos Road projects are not kickstarted, including stopping the recent FG-announced bidding round for 57 marginal oil fields, it would shut down oil operations in Itsekiri communities.
Also, the Gbaramatu Kingdom had in a World press conference, threatened to shut down oil operations in its area with an ultimatum expiring tomorrow, over alleged Federal Government adamance to longstanding demands.
However, Okowa, while addressing newsmen in Warri, on Wednesday, appealed to Ijaw of Gbaramatu and Itsekiri people to rescind the planned shut down of oil operations for a win-win strategy/outcome which the Delta State Government was envisaging in its engagement with the federal government.
Okowa who was represented by his deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, said: “I personally appeal that the oil communities consider jettisoning the idea of shutting down oil operations, as a birthday gift to our Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, and to enable his team more time to deepen discussions with the appropriate authorities.
“I want to thank the Itsekiri and the Ijaw of Gbaramatu for peacefully airing their demands for worldwide attention. But I think that resorting now to shutting down oil operations by Ijaw and Itsekiri in place of the present peaceful path would be seen as confrontational owing to the present financial situation of the FG which the Gbaramatu people acknowledged in their own protest.
“It would additionally cripple Federal Government capacity to address our clearly legitimate demands and erase outside sympathy for the cause. It could lead our vulnerable people thereby deprived of world sympathy to be on collision course with the federal government.
“The world has been watching the commendably peaceful protests by Gbaramatu Ijaw and the Itsekiri, over pending demands. It has noted the unfair deprivation of the Modular Floating Dockyard (MFD) for training of students of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
“The demand for Escravos Processing Zone (EPZ) or Gas Revolution Industrial Park project is a legitimate quest for benefitting from oil industry-funded by their oil. The world knows it is unconscionable to deny the oil-producing people Oil Mining Licenses (OML) and Marginal Fields generously given to others to their exclusion.
“The world is persuaded that it is immoral to keep the communities in darkness while their oil powers never-dimming lights in premises of the oil companies around”, Otuaro said.
“Let me assure our people that results-producing dialogue is a process, not an event. Let us keep peace and faith.
“Dialogue has yielded some fruits however slow. The FG has awarded the electrification project that will benefit about 50 communities in the said Escravos area and work is ongoing but need be expedited. The Delta State Government Committee on the Modular Floating Dockyard chaired by myself, Commissioner of Finance, as well as Barr. Bosin Ebikeme, Hon. Kelly Penawou amongst others has not closed discussions with the FG on sending the Modular Floating Dockyard to Okerenkoko area for intended purpose while presently supporting the FG efforts in running the Nigerian Maritime University. As a government, we also made helicopter-assisted aerial tour/observations of communities impacted by oil pollution ahead of the dying fishes saga mentioned in the Gbaramatu people’s protest, and commissioned soil/water samples for laboratory investigations to enable us push a strong case for environmental remediation,” Otuaro pleaded.