…Say, continuous negligence will lead to hostility in the region
By Enaibo Asiayei & Ebi Perekeme
The Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chiefs, and the Movement for Itsekiri Oil/Gas producing Communities, MDIOGPC, on Sunday threatened to disrupt the $2.8 billion 614km Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) if the Federal Government fails to restart the $16 billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project.
The EPZ project includes a Gas Revolution Industrial Park and Gbaramatu Deap Seaport in Delta State.
The group also asked the Federal Government to probe the deaths of millions of fishes on their waterways.
The group further condemned the continuous neglect of Gbaramatu indigenes and Itsekiris from oil/gas producing communities by the Federal Government in investment opportunities in the Oil and Gas Sector, stressing that, the continuous negligence will aggravate Crude Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism.
In a joint press conference addressed by Chief Godspower Gbenekama, Fiyewei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, and Olorogun of Warri Kingdom and Chairman Board of Trustee, Movement for the Development of Itsekiri Oil and Gas Communities, Chief Mike Odeli in Warri on Sunday.
The communique reads: “You are aware that the Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chiefs, in conjunction with the communities that make up Gbaramatu Kingdom, in a press release, signed by Chief Godspower Gbenekama, wrote to the President of the Federation, Muhammadu Buhari, about the continued marginalization of the Kingdom and initially gave a 10-day ultimatum, which was later scaled down to 4 days last weekend as the countdown inched closer.
“Members of the Movement for the Development of Itsekiri Oil/Gas Producing Communities, MDIOGPC, equally petitioned President Buhari and gave a 14-day ultimatum several days ago to the President, to address the marginalization of Itsekiri oil and gas producing communities in Delta State.
“It is however shocking that despite the warnings by the Gbaramatu Council of Chiefs and the Movement for the Development of the Itsekiri Oil and Gas Producing Communities, MDIOGPC, the Buhari led Federal Government remains adamant to our genuine demands, regarding the barefaced ostracism staring at our faces on daily basis, particularly by those in charge of managing affairs in the Oil and Gas Sector in this country.
“By this, we mean the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries such as NAPIMS and DPR.
“The marginalization is also clearly evident in the way and manner the current administration shockingly abandoned the Multi-Billion Dollar Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, GRIP, and Deep Sea Port in Warri South- West Local Government Area, Delta State. The GRIP project and Deep Sea Port, have the prospective to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs as well as boost economic diversification.
“It will interest you to note that the just concluded ground breaking of the 614km-long Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) natural gas pipeline meant to convey gas to the northern part of the country, morocco, expected to transport 3,500 million metric standard cubic feet (Mmscfd) per day of dehydrated wet gas.
“Same amount of wet gas intended for the GRIP Ogidigben but is being stalled by this administration. This is sheer oppression by a government not willing to see other regions develop. It beats our imagination as to how a government that claimed to practice and encourage local production suddenly deviates from its agenda rather than encourage local industrialization through projects such as the GRIP, instead opting to sustain the continued exportation of our natural gas without adding value to it. On this note we say the GRIP-EPZ must be continued or we will disrupt any attempt to continue with the AKK.
“We will like the world to know that on the 26th of January, 2020, millions of dead and rotten fishes surfaced on the waterways and fish-traps in Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Itsekiri coastal communities. Up till date, no Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has been carried out, despite repeated letters to both the Government and all relevant agencies.
“Gbaramatu and the costal Itsekiri people had to engage Environmentalists, who carried out analysis on samples collected and the findings correlate, but are a little higher than the report released by NOSDRA, which confirmed there was heavy metal pollution, despite their attempts to downplay its effects. This heavy metal pollution has been linked to activities involving oil exploration in the region, according to a report by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).
“We are also at a loss, as to why the age-long Omadino – Escravos Road, expected to connect the Oil and Gas- rich Coastal Communities in Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas, remain abandoned till date, despite exploitation of huge natural resources from the area. The road would also cement a working and more cordial relationship, aiding peaceful coexistence between the Ijaws and Itsekiris.
“Despite the hue and cry from different Itsekiri and Ijaw groups as well as professional bodies, urging President Buhari to direct the relevant Federal Government MDAs such as Federal Ministry of Works, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC as well as the Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies to immediately embark on large scale shore protection/sand-filling projects in Itsekiri riverine/oil producing communities and Gbaramatu kingdom, the administration has continued to play dumb on the exigency to save the riverine/oil producing communities from rampaging Ocean Surge.
“We the Gbaramatu Ijaws and our Itsekiri brothers, have continued to brood the apparent aberration of the Local Content Act as it affects direct employment opportunities into Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and other IOCs, operating in our communities.
“These companies secretly employ non-indigenes and fly them to work in Escravos as well as other Itsekiri and Gbaramatu Offshore Locations, while our eminently qualified graduates as well as technicians roam the streets, living at the mercy of their indigent and aging parents.
“Itsekiris and Gbaramatu Ijaws, have been grossly marginalized in bid offers, since the discovery of Crude Oil in our Homelands for over 60 years running.
“This is despite the huge environmental hazards, poor sanitary conditions, lack of health care facilities and zero Federal Presence in Gbaramatu and Itsekiri Oil and Gas Producing/Impacted Communities in the Niger Delta.
“We must at this juncture, reiterate our total rejection of the recently announced 57 Marginal Fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. We can no longer continue to sit down and watch outsiders, being offered Oil Mining Licenses in our homelands, when we have capable Gbaramatu and Itsekiri Sons as well as Daughters, whose firms are qualified, but repeatedly denied such licenses by the sustained-structural bias of the DPR.
“You will recall that the President Buhari led federal government in her program tagged the anchor borrowers program in 2015 through the CBN governor disbursed the sum of 55Billion Naira to farmers, and these monies gotten from proceeds of Oil and Gas yet nothing tangible is approved for capacity building to support the entrepreneurs from our communities who are interested in owning marginal fields.
“We challenge the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC and its subsidiaries to publish the names/companies that own Crude Oil Blocs in Delta State. Because records available to us, indicate that no Gbaramatu and Itsekiri indigene from the oil producing communities has or operates any Oil bloc in the State, even though the Crude Oil and Gas Resources are exploited in our God-given lands.
“The Federal Government often complains of the negative impact the twin evils of Crude Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism across the country (especially the Niger Delta) have on the economy, but suffice to emphasise that the continuous neglect of Gbaramatu indigenes and Itsekiris from oil/gas producing communities by the Federal Government in investment opportunities in the Oil and Gas Sector, will aggravate Crude Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism.
“Sadly, while Gas is piped from Gbaramatu and the coastal Itsekiri Communities to provide electricity to the North, West and other areas, the communities are left to grope in darkness. For example, Azama, Inikorogha, Madangho , Ogidigben, Deghele and Kolokolo Communities have been in darkness for close to 18 months, because the light project where contractors are supposed to provide Diesel for the generator in use, has not been happening. Contractors have neither been mobilized, nor given approval to provide the Diesel the generators need.
“If this procurement process is not resumed immediately, we will be forced to stop pleading with the women of the communities, who we have held back for months from going to the NGC Office in Warri and occupying their offices.
“The presence of the ongoing Gas Generator project for these communities, does not mean the communities should remain in darkness in perpetuity. The diesel procurement should continue until such a time as it becomes obsolete with the Gas Generator becoming operational.
“This continued darkness is untoward and has added to a myriad other issues like pollution, poor sanitary conditions, total absence of potable water, lack of healthcare facilities to deal with the ailments that continued oil and gas exploration has caused. As we have shown, the Federal Government owes a debt of gratitude to us and a duty that can only begin to be repaid by fulfilling its commitments and obligations to Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Itsekiri Oil/Gas producing communities.”
On the group demands, the communique added that, “We are calling on the Federal Government to immediately halt the current process of bids for the 57 Marginal Fields and come up with new modalities, where competent companies owned by Gbaramatu indigenes as well as Itsekiri Sons and Daughters, would be given “right of first refusal: on fields in our homelands, before being thrown open to outsiders.
“If competent companies owned by Itsekiri indigenes and Gbaramatu people are not considered by DPR for the 57 Marginal Fields with immediate effect, we will shut-down operations of the Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies (IOCs) operating in our homelands.
“The Federal Government should order immediate resumption of work at the Multi-Billion Dollar Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, GRIP and Deep Sea Port in Warri South- West Local Government Area, Delta State.
“Direct the relevant MDAs/IOCs to embark on large scale shore protection/sand-filling projects in Itsekiri and Gbaramatu riverine/oil producing communities.
“Institute processes for the facilitation of the abandoned age-long Omadino – Escravos Road. ‘Oil machineries for commencement of the Koko/Ogheye Road Project, which has remained a mere campaign tool for successive administrations, despite its strategic importance to the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta and the South-West.
“The urgent and immediate relocation of the Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard to Gbaramatu. The Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard, was meant to serve as a veritable platform for students of Nigerian Maritime University, to acquire practical knowledge and advance their technical skills. This is a clear path to employment and appointment opportunities for our capable sons and daughters.
“We demand immediate and comprehensive investigation into what led to millions of dead and rotten fishes that surfaced on the waterways and fish-traps in Gbaramatu Kingdom and coastal Itsekiri communities , with a view to carrying out the necessary remediation, so that the needful can be done for those who have suffered loss or damage.
“We eagerly await speedy action on the aforementioned as the clock ticks closer to our joint ultimatum, to avert fresh crisis in the Oil and Gas Industry.”