Osinbajo Unveils FG’s New Vision For Niger Delta
OIL-PRODUCING communities in the Niger Delta region, yesterday, got a new deal from the Federal Government. The Niger Delta development will henceforth be community- driven for oil-bearing areas to have direct impact of oil wealth. The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who unfolded the new vision, yesterday, said the Federal Government would begin a partnership with all the stakeholders in the oil industry to concentrate development in oil-producing communities.
Speaking at the Chief Diepreye Alameiyesiegha Banquet Hall, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the acting president said the partnership would involve the local government, the oil-producing communities, the oil companies, the private sector and civil society organisations. Osinbajo led a delegation of ministers, heads of agencies and other federal cabinet members to Bayelsa to interact with Niger Delta stakeholders as part of efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to find a lasting peace in the region. Women, youths, traditional rulers, captains of industries, political office holders and other government functionaries turned out in large numbers to participate in the dialogue. Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister for Niger Delta, Usani Usani; Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu and his counterpart in Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri and other federal cabinet members.
The team, who arrived at the heliport of the Government House in Yenagoa in a chopper, was received by the state governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah, cabinet members and some lawmakers from the state. After a brief meeting in the Government House, the team headed for the state’s Traditional Rulers’ Council where the chairman of the council, King Alfred Diete-Spiff conferred a chieftaincy title on the acting president. Women who were adorned in uniform wrappers and blouses and youths, who held banners were seen drumming and dancing to welcome the acting President.
The banquet hall was congested with various groups of persons, elders, arrays of high personalities, who came to be part of the dialogue. The entire areas of the Government House were cordoned off by fully-armed security operatives who deployed few Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to monitor activities and ensure a hitch-free event. The Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere; former Governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva; former boss of NDDC, Timi Alaibe, Coordinator of the Amnesty Office, Gen. Paul Boroh and other leaders and elders of the Ijaw nation were in attendance. Explaining the new vision, Osinbajo said: “So, we come today on behalf of the President, Commander in Chief with my cabinet colleagues and heads of relevant agencies to propose a new vision and to signpost a new era to the people of the oil-producing communities of this state and Nigeria.
“The Federal Government will begin a partnership with oil-producing communities, the local government, the oil companies, the private sector and civil society organisation for the rapid development of these communities. “We must convene an oil community intervention to work out what can be done in a short and medium term and the long term possibility. We must focus on how to ensure that the people feel the benefits of the wealth of the land. “This new vision will define the future of the region. Oil production by itself cannot suffice to assure our people of different jobs and different incomes. It cannot.
We must make our oil-producing communities hubs for petrochemical industries, small and large. We must make these communities hubs for refining and related activities.” Already, he said that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in collaboration with oil companies, was working on a 40-point agenda, a new initiative for Niger Delta development. According to him, one of the core areas of the agenda is to ensure the integration of illegal oil refiners in the modular refineries to be established.
“Ministry of Petroleum Resources in collaboration with oil companies is already working on 40-point agenda, new initiatives for the oil-producing communities in Niger Delta. “In particular, one of those is working with illegal refiners in oil-bearing communities to participate in modular refineries that will be established,” he said. Osinbajo, further argued that the region was supposed to be the best locations for power stations as a result o the large gas deposits in the area. He said: “There is no doubt at all that power station should be stationed here. It makes sense. The gas deposits are here. Very frequently, the way we take decisions does not always show that we are applying all the common sense that we have. “I think that the place that has gas deposits is a natural location for power station. The biggest benefits we can obtain is to attract more investments to this region.” He said the new vision of the government was informed by the burdens the communities had to bear despite wealth generated from oil.
He lamented that the people’s means of livelihood, fishing and farming, had been consistently destroyed by pollution while huge resources earned over the years from oil had disappeared. “The roads, schools, hospitals and social amnesties that oil well should have provided are either not there or they are patently inadequate. “Majority of people of these communities and several parts of oil-producing states have heard of the wealth that oil had brought but have hardly benefitted from it,” he said. For effective implementation of expected integrated development of oil-communities, the acting President advised them to desist from vandalism of oil facilities to enable the government and oil companies realise funds for the projects. He lamented that violent agitation had greatly reduced investments in the oil and gas sector in the country and advised the oil-producing communities He said: “New investment in the oil gas sector have slowed down so badly because investors have a choice all over the world even here in Africa and they are of course scared to put their resources in a place that is unstable.
“This is why our oil-producing communities must now refuse to participate in the destructions of pipelines and oil facilities. Apart from the loss of revenues, it also means further pollution of the land and aquaculture. “We must not allow anyone to persuade us that we need to destroy investments and our environment to get a few benefits. It amounts to cutting our nose to spite our faces. From 2015, Nigeria began to lose one million barrels of oil every day, almost 60 per cent of revenue lost to vandalisation. “This affected all our states and especially even the states in the Delta region. All the requests, the road to Brass and airport can only be done when the Federal Government and the state’s earn revenue. We destroy the sources of revenue and expect revenue. Development comes with revenue.” On the global appeal of oil as a source of revenue, he added: “We must make haste and we must make haste quickly. Day by day, the world is no longer depends on oil. Other energy sources are getting cheaper.
“America used to be the largest importer of our oil but now they do not import a drop of Nigerian oil since they started producing from shale. Our oil now sells to Asia but even they do not plan to depend on oil forever. “China and Japan are now manufacturing electric cars. In Japan, there are more charging stations for cars than petrol stations now. We must be wise. We must use the oil for development now when it is still valuable and guaranteeing of a future wellbeing is to act today.
“It is time to set out sight on a great future for our people. It is time to do the hard work that is required and I want to assure you that President Buhari and government of the federation today is prepared to work with the people of the Niger Delta to ensure we bring development here.” He challenged the youths to set up a Niger Delta Chambers of Commerce and Entrepreneurship Council as a platform to harness their skills and develop their potential. He said: “So, I challenge the young professionals to set up a Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship Council. Let us have a chamber of commerce for the young men and women.
“In that council we can identify those who are involved in technology, in agriculture, in oil and gas in manufacturing and other professions. A chamber of commerce properly organised will attract the right kind of local and international partnership and even funding. I want to say that I am prepared to work with you on that. “Societies are built on the resourcefulness, innovation and zeal of the people.
They are not built on mere resources. Some societies do not even have any resources but are much richer than societies that have resources. “India does not have a drop of oil, but today it is the largest refiner of petroleum product in the entire world. And it doesn’t have a drop of oil.” Osinbajo stressed that President Buhari was sincerely determined to address issues in the Niger Delta, adding that the President sent his team on the fact-finding mission after meeting with the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) last year.
“I am here as an emissary of the President, President Muhammadu Buhari who after the visit of the leadership of the PANDEF decided that we must undertake visits to engage the leadership and people of all the oil-producing communities to hear them and to seek to understand their problems and concerns firsthand and to offer to those communities in the Delta region a new vision and a new compass,” he said. Governor Dickson, in his remarks, called for a better collaboration between Bayelsa and the Federal Government for peace propensity and security.
Describing the state as the core Niger Delta, the governor said the state has all the challenges of development and urgently needs the support of the federal government. The governor further called for partnership between the state and other federal agencies especially the NDDC on priority projects. Addressing the acting President, he said: “Don’t leave Bayelsa alone. It is a young state and it needs a federal support.” The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, on his part, thanked the people for their turnout and urged them to desist from vandalising pipelines, and lamenting that the government lost about $80bn to vandalism in five years.