NIGER DELTA LEADERS DEMAND OIL BLOCS, PIPELINE PROTECTION CONTRACTS FROM BUHARI

Leaders and stakeholders in the Niger Delta yesterday presented a 16-point demand to President Muhammadu Buhari on issues that bordered on the socio-economic development, security and restoration of peace in the oil-rich region. One of the demands by the stakeholders, including traditional rulers, is inclusive participation of the region in oil industry and ownership of oil blocs.

On the ownership of oil blocks by the stakeholders, the document presented to the president stated that: “The sense of alienation of Niger Delta from the resources of their land, will continue, until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the oil and gas industry.

“We therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of oil and gas assets. “We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content Framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the petroleum and maritime sectors.”

On the pipeline contracts, they stated that: “The incessant breaching and vandalism of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear country.

“Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental clean-up efforts. “It is therefore our view that an urgent review be done to pipeline surveillance contracts to give the responsibility to communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility.

Communities would then see their responsibility over the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.”Addressing State House Correspondents after the meeting, former military administrator of old Rivers State and the Amanayabo of Twon- Brass, King Diette Spiff, said other demands contained in the document presented to President Buhari were the need for enforcement of the zero gas flaring deadline, approval for the take-off of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Delta State and award of pipeline surveillance contracts to the communities in the area.

The leaders, he noted, also demanded for the immediate relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the region. Most of the oil companies, he noted, are not located in the Niger Delta.

Other demands in the position paper are the resolution of a number of pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals, restructuring and funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to ensure that they reflect true interventionist organisations meant to swiftly tackle the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta.

The Niger Delta leaders also demanded a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced population to reduce the risk of making the region a stateless people. They said government must also improve power supply in the region since the need for a power plan.

On economic development and empowerment, they want Brass Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and fertiliser plant project, including the Train 7 implemented, reviewed with the view to updating the national gas master plan in order to integrate the economic interests and industrialisation of the region.

According to King Spiff, leaders also want the Federal Government to create a Niger Delta industrial corridor that would process some portions of the bat hydrocarbon natural resources, expediting work on the export processing zones, harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potential of the area through the development of farms estates, fishery development projects and agro-allied industrial clusters.

Central in the 16-point demand is also the need to reduce military occupation of communities in the region, which they explained was causing agitation among the youth. Diete-Spiff said: “Of course, you have the welfare of the people. These are the main things.

“Relocation of the oil companies is one of the points that we pointed out. These oil companies (IOCs) have their headquarters somewhere in Lekki or Abuja and even their operational headquarters are not within the area of their operations.

“This is not right because even the `pay as you earn tax’ is not coming to the region; they will just come and harvest and go away. “The presence of the military of course, you know, has been agitating the boys and that too, we said, should be reversed. We don’t want to see the region being militarised.

“We really need to engage the youth who have been trained by the Amnesty Programme. “In addition, the Ogoni situation for instance, is one of many. So, while they have been (cleaning) doing the Ogoni, the exercise should be extended to other parts of the Niger Delta.”

Diete-Spiff gave an assurance that the people of the Niger Delta remained committed to achieving peace and progress of the country. He stated that the region had resolved to help the Buhari-led administration to succeed.

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