The Executive Governor of Delta State, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, has charged International Oil Companies and other corporate organisations that suspended their operations in the state in the heat of hostilities, to come back, saying that normalcy had since returned to the area.
Okowa who stated this in Warri while addressing representatives of 17 cluster communities in Warri Urban and environs rounding off the two weeks advocacy on the road map for actualization of community engagement with oil and gas producing communities in Delta South senatorial district of the state, said that most of the issues that led to the problem had been addressed.
The communities include Ode-Itsekiri, Orugbo, Ugbuwangue, Ugbori, Dandu, Iyara, Ekurede-Itsekiri, Ubeji, Egbokodo, Omadino, Ogunu, Edjeba, Agbasa, Igbudu, Okere, Okurede-Urhobo and Ogbe-Ijoh.
The governor, represented by the state Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Mr Mofe Pirah, said: “Aside the high powered committee led by the Deputy Governor, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, that visited some of the communities and other steps taken by the state government to address the problem, the visit of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to the areas has helped in dousing tensions in the oil producing communities and since April-June last year, there has been no case of attacks on oil pipelines.
“The engagement session with the oil producing communities was to create another forum to share ideas with the people on the best way forward, especially now that some of the IOCs, including Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, SPDC, have indicated interest to return. There must be an enabling environment for the companies to operate.
“The problem of companies not honouring MoU entered into with communities had dominated the complaints of the people and it is sad that in most of the communities, leaders not knowledgeable enough were used to draw up the MoU.
Henceforth, the state government will midwife all MoUs between companies and host communities to avoid seeds of discord being planted even at the beginning of the exercise due to selfish interests.”
He said that the time to change from the old ways of doing things when community leaders went into negotiations with companies for their immediate gains instead of equity participation of the communities is now, adding that the people cannot continue to suffer in the midst of plenty.
Okowa further said: “Government will continue to encourage peaceful communities by attracting development projects to the areas.”
No meaningful progress can be made in an environment of disunity, restiveness and crisis. I appealed to you all to go back to your places, organise town hall meetings with your people and explain to them on the need to shun all acts capable of discouraging investment in the state.
“Say no to pipeline vandalism, equipment theft, kidnapping, armed robbery and stoppage of work on site. Steps are being taken to outlaw multiple levies on developers by communities, particularly in Warri and Uvwie axis of the state as the ugly development was driving investors away from the areas. We must abandon our old ways of doing things or we perish. Again, the time to change is now.”
Some of the communities representatives which spoke agreed that companies like Shell, Pan Ocean and Westminister Dredging among others leaving Warri had negatively impacted on the stakeholders and commended the steps being taken by government for their return.
They decried the under development of the communities and blamed government negligence, the failure of the oil companies in their corporate responsibilities, disunity among the people and selfishness of some of the communities leaders.