—Says, publish names of any Gbaramatu beneficiaries
—Remains resolute on its shutdown plans
By Ebi Perekeme
Sequel to claims of marginalisation by the Federal Government, Gbaramatu Kingdom has on Saturday July 4th, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency to halt the current bidding process for the 57 Marginal Fields in the region.
The kingdom also demanded for the restart of Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Ogidigben and Deep Seaport, Gbaramatu Project.
Recall that the Federal Government, through the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), on the 1st of June, announced the commencement of marginal fields bid rounds for 2020.
The commencement of the 2020 oil bid round is coming 18 years after the first one was conducted in 2002.
However, in a World Press conference organized by the Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chiefs, in conjunction with the communities, they also threatens to shut down oil and gas operations in the region if their demands are not considered and modalities put in place.
According to the spokesperson for the Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, he stated that they had earlier wrote to President Buhari about the continued marginalisation of the Kingdom and gave a 10 day ultimatum, that currently has just 4 days left.
“We have called this press conference to reiterate our demands and put the entire world on notice.”
Their grievances and demands
Gbenekama also stated that, Omadinor-Excravos road Project that was started and would have led to greater peaceful coexistence and dramatically improved economic relations between the neighbouring Local Governments has been put on indefinite hold under this administration.
“This is a project that is expected to bridge the Oil and Gas-rich Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas that both continue to be exploited daily for the continued sustenance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“This road would also cement a working and more cordial relationship, aiding peaceful coexistence between the Ijaws and Itsekiris of Warri south and Warri South-West Local Government Areas that the road will pass through and service.
“This marginalisation is even more glaring in the abrupt abandonment of the Multi-Billion Dollar Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port Project, Gbaramatu Project that would have created thousands of direct and Indirect Jobs at a time where this Government’s Job creation statistics and figures are taking a beating for not living up to the promises made.
“This was an opportunity to keep that promise with the added benefit of bringing together Gbaramatu Ijaw and Itsekiri people in a common, mutually agreeable economic venture. The government has refused to pluck on this low hanging fruit.
“Gbaramatu, which spans a large part of one of three major Oil Producing Local Governments in Delta State (Warri South-West) is arguably one of the largest single benefactor Kingdoms of the Nigerian state.
“Despite this, those of us who live in these areas where these exploration activities are carried out have been marginalised, ignored, taken advantage of, all the while, suffering the devastating side effects of this exploration that has occurred due to an almost zero federal presence in our communities.
“While Gas is piped from our communities to provide electricity to the North, West and other areas, our communities are left to grope in darkness. For example, Azama and Inikorogha 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 mobilised nor given approval to provide the Diesel the generator needs. This is the same case in Opuedebubor and Tebujor, where the Nigerian Gas Company has welched on their responsibility to procure Diesel for these communities, leading to a state of perpetual darkness for the past 12-18 months.
“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 and a duty that can only begin to be repaid by fulfilling its commitments and obligations to the Kingdom.
“This continued, untoward, deplorable and disgraceful marginalisation has been brought to a head with the news of the recently announced bidding process for 57 Marginal fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
“We are by this medium, announcing our total and unequivocal objection to a bidding process that has for long excluded capable Gbaramatu indigenes. If we are wrong in this assertion, we have called on the Federal Government and all its Oil and Gas agencies to within ten (10) days publish the names of any and all Gbaramatu indigenes that have directly benefited from any of these bidding processes.
“This is day 6 and no such list has been published. This speaks for itself. The goose that lays the golden eggs is tired of seeing said eggs carted away and enjoyed by everyone else without any discernible impact on its environment.
“The DPR has for years now, denied the Oil Mining Licenses required to partake in this bidding process to capable sons and daughters of the very places where these Oil fields are situated, and we say no more! On the 26th of January, 2020, millions of dead and rotten fishes surfaced on the waterways and fishtraps in Gbaramatu Kingdom.
“Up till date, no Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has been carried out, despite repeated letters to both the Government and all relevant agencies. We had to engage environmentalists who carried out analysis on samples collected, and the findings correlate, but a little higher than the report released by NOSDRA which confirms 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 demand immediate and comprehensive investigation, report and remediation so that the needful can be done for those who have suffered loss or damage.
“Another grouse of ours is the floating dock/shipyard that was meant for Gbaramatu Kingdom, and which, for unknown reasons, the Buhari-led administration is bent on diverting to other areas.
“The Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard which was originally planned to be situated close to the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko and was expected to provide students hands-on experience of the Industry they are training to join, has inexplicably been relocated.
“This is a massive slight, not only on a Kingdom that has partnered this Government on peace initiatives but is also a blatant and ill-advised attempt to deprive students of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, such a brilliang learning opportunity. This is a gross dereliction of duty and one we condemn in the strongest possible terms.
“We have also noticed with dismay the blatant lopsided appointments into various National agencies with no room for Gbaramatu indigenes despite our stated high contribution to the National cake.
“Were we to start enumerating the instances where Government agencies in this administration have been accused of nepotism in the hiring and appointment process, we may have to take over a National Newspaper for a Week, such has been the preponderance of these instances.
“We have had instances where qualified Gbaramatu indigenes have been passed over for appointment and employment opportunities. Even within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which is funded exclusively from the resources taken from our lands and waters, there has been such a lopsided slant to both appointments and employment opportunities, that indigenes of places like ours who fund the NNPC have no place in these opportunities, while less qualified, sometimes junior colleagues are flown all over the country to man oil installations while we bear the brunt of said exploration. This is an unfair state of affairs that we will no longer accept.”
“We urge the Federal Government to restart the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Ogidigben and Deep Seaport, Gbaramatu Project
The restart of the Omadinor-Excravos road Project that was discontinued by this administration
“The immediate halt of the current bidding process for the 57 Marginal Fields and come up with modalities where competent companies owned by Gbaramatu Sons and Daughters will be given the right of first refusal on fields located in Gbaramatu and within the Warri South-West local Government Area.
“The urgent and immediate relocation to Gbaramatu of the Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard.
“A clear path to employment and appointment opportunities for our capable sons and daughters.
“In that letter, we have stated that if these demands are not considered and modalities put in place for their achievement, we will shut down ALL Oil and Gas operations in our homeland Ten (10 ) days after the publication of the letter. That was 6 days ago. We have four (4) more days. We will follow through if the Federal Government insists on continuing this marginalisation and ignores our demands.
“We do not look forward to inflicting more of a financial burden on the Federal Government during these COVID-19 times, in four (4) days, we will shut down all exploration activities in our Homeland. We have stayed Silent too long. We will be Silent no more,” Gbenekama added.