Niger Delta

Niger Delta Ministry Linked To N29bn Fraud

By George Agba, Stanley Nkwocha, Chuka Odittah and Christiana Esebonu

Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe

Alleged fictitious contracts totalling N29 billion in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, between 2010 and 2011, have been uncovered.

But the minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, has denied any involvement in the alleged dirty deals.

The scam involved payments for phantom projects, over-budgeting and violation of Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) guidelines for the award of government contracts.

According to official documents made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday by Anti-Corruption Network, a whistle-blowing organisation headquartered in Abuja, the award of these fake contracts, which had been ongoing, violated the BPP rules but were nevertheless fully paid for with the authority of Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance.

Examples of such non-existent projects, which the group said have been exhaustively investigated and found to be fraudulent, are: contract for the canalization of Odoubou-Bololou creek project in Ogbaba- Gbene, Burutu LGA, at a cost of N1.259bn;  contract for land reclamation and shoreline protection at Ogbobagbene, for which the sum of N2.431bn was fraudulently paid; and the contract for canalization training of Foupolo-Bunu Ndoro creek project in Burutu  LGA for  which N2.370bn was paid even though the project did not exist.

According to a Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs document obtained yesterday by LEADERSHIP at the media briefing convened by Anti-Corruption Network, contract for land reclamatinon /shoreline protection project at Ogbobagbene, Burutu LGA, Delta State, under the watch of the ministry and awarded in 2010 at the cost of N5,813,743,373.92 was found to have been over-funded to the tune of N12,925,132,704.00.This was despite the cost-reduction review totalling N1,067,349,380.28 given by the BPP.

Briefing journalists yesterday, the executive secretary of the anti-corruption group, Otunba Dino Melaye, said over N29bn had been siphoned through a list of fictitious contracts by the ministry, adding that, also in 2010, a contract for land reclamation/ shoreline protection and canalization in the Niger Delta region, Batch 1, was awarded by the ministry to one Messrs Hanslum Construction Ltd and six others at the sum of N14,270,966,124.99.

“We are resolute to expose corruption at all levels. We are going to take this fight to the next level by not only exposing them but also going to court to challenge those who perpetrate it. In the Niger Delta Ministry, it is unfortunate that we have discovered three phantom projects. They are not just phantom but non-existent. We say that it is satanic, the collaboration between the Niger Delta Ministry and the Ministry of Finance in this scam,” he said.

He noted that the anti-corruption network would send copies of the documents proving these scams to the presidency, the ministers of the affected ministries as well as the relevant anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC for further investigations. The move, he said, would be followed by a court action against the key players of the  fraud, adding that, as a whistleblower, he owed it a duty to the nation to uncover corrupt dealings wherever it was found.

Elder Orubebe has denied any knowledge of the alleged fraud of  N29billion meant for the contracts’ funding in his office.

The minister, who described the allegation of embezzlement of public funds as very untrue, a fallacy and a miscounted one, said  via telephone that he was open to an investigation by “any authority”.

Orubebe, who further described  the allegation as cheap blackmail by unrepentant liars and cheap popularity seekers, advised them go back and check their facts as the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy would never release funds without carrying out proper inspection of projects sites.

“The minister of finance and coordinating  minister of the economy cannot  allow that at all; there is no way the minister will approve funds for projects that are not on ground. Projects are inspected before the release of funds,” he stated. “If we had done a fraud on such a massive scale, wouldn’t they have found out? In 2010 and 2011 we carried out contracts according to the funds availed us and have lamented bitterly of shortfalls and there are just three allegations out of the hundreds of contracts.”

Our papers are open to scrutiny. Every allegation they have made, we have countered. We have got the documents for everything. I have all the facts and figures to show the allegations are false,” Orubebe told LEADERSHIP.

Jonathan wants Ribadu report  submitted Friday

Meanwhile, barely a week after the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force announced that it had discovered shady deals and crude oil theft in the petroleum industry, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday gave a marching order to the task force: it should present its report to him on Friday this week at the presidential villa, Abuja.

Jonathan also ordered two other committees set up by the federal government early this year on different aspects of the petroleum industry to submit their reports to him on the same Friday.

A statement issued by the special adviser to the president, Dr. Reuben Abati, said Jonathan’s directive was in furtherance of “the administration’s commitment to transparency, probity, and accountability in the petroleum sector”.

 “President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that a comprehensive report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force chaired by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu should be presented to him this week,” he stated.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP reads in part: “The Committee, which was set up in February 2012, was required to, among other tasks, determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes and royalties, etc) due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and to take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owed; to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators. 

 “The presentation of the Committee’s report will take place on Friday, November 2, at 11am, at the State House, Abuja.”

Abati noted that the president further directed “two other committees set up by the federal government earlier this year on different aspects of the country’s petroleum industry to also present their reports” to him on Friday, November 2, 2012.

Similarly, the senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, in a release made available to LEADERSHIP, said the president had not even seen nor received any copy of the Ribadu Committee report. He said what had been released to the media prematurely is a draft copy which will be subjected to clarifications and due process from the originating ministry before the official handing over to the presidency.

“President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should be commended for his personal resolve to fight institutionalized corruption in Nigeria. President Jonathan ordered the probe of the oil industry for the period of ten years (2002 - 2011) which also covers the tenure of his administration. No president in our history has gone this far and this explains why the rot in our system has persisted for so long.

“President Jonathan approved the appointment of a well-known anti-corruption crusader, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who ran against him at the presidential poll on the platform of the Action Congress  of Nigeria, ACN.

“It is also noteworthy that the secretary of the Committee, Mr. Supo Sasore, was a former attorney-general of Lagos State under an ACN government.

President Jonathan’s unwavering and commendable determination to fight corruption is clearly demonstrated by his approval of the appointment of credible Nigerians, anti-corruption crusaders and members of the opposition party in the committee,” Okupe said.

The president’s aide said Jonathan was committed to exposing fraud at all levels including the oil sector as illustrated by the Aig Imokhuede committee on fuel subsidy.
Source: Leadership, 30th October 2012.

 

 

A Case for Niger Delta Indigenous Oil Refineries

By magnus onyibe

opinion

IN elementary economics class,we were taught that the preponderance of natural resources in certain locations is one of the major considerations for locating extractive industries in the area.

This justified the presence of a huge array of textile mills in Kaduna,a stone throw from Funtua in Northern Nigeria where cotton farming was endemic .

It also underscores the existence of Onyeama Coal Mines in Enugu ,where huge deposits of coal are buried under the earth crust, just as it is the reason for siting cocoa producing factories in Lagos-lbadan axis where it is the commonest cash crop in that region.

In those good old days, the textile mills and the coal mines were veritable providers of jobs for Northerners and Easterners who loath to venture far afield to Lagos where factories were more abundant with corresponding ample job opportunities.

Interestingly, the situation at that time was such that both big and small textile ,cocoa and coal mines thrived successfully without any threat to one another. Correspondingly, in the Niger Delta where oil/gas deposits were discovered in 1959,refineries and petrochemical industries are located in Port Harcourt in Rivers State and Warri in Delta State.

But contrary to the situation in the North, South East and South West where cotton,coal and cocoa were strictly private business, oil exploration is conducted under stringent control of government via the enactment of the Petroleum Act in 1969.

So, apart from the huge state-owned oil/gas firms run by the behemoth, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, no smaller firms were allowed to operate in the exploration and refining of crude oil in Nigeria at the initial stages.

The monopoly subsisted until distributorship permits were granted local operators when the refineries came on stream and oil/gas exploration licenses were, several years after, granted indigenous firms like Dubri Oil, Muni Pulo,Consolidated oil ,Midwest oil, SEPTA and a host of others which are now profitably mining marginal fields hitherto neglected by multi-national firms.

Disappointingly,the last time Nigeria built a refinery was in 1989' which is 24 years ago in Kaduna, while the first refinery was built in 1965 in Port Harcourt.
Source: Vanguard 29th October 2012.

 

Surviving The Flood In The Niger Delta

FROM ABRAHAM OGBODO (SOUTH-SOUTH BUREAU CHIEF)

ACROSS the Niger Delta, the governors acknowledge the flood waters are either stabilising or receding. It is the first piece of good news since the devastation began over a month ago.

At least Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson has regained some breath and reportedly going beyond his immediate perimeters to intervene in the East-West Road, which is cut open at different spots by flowing water from both the Ahoada and Patani ends, making the state completely inaccessible by land.

Also, Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, at his bi-weekly briefing on the flood situation in the state, said: “Things have fairly stabilised and we are no longer registering new victims in the various relief camps in the state.”

He only added that a greater task for government “is managing the post flood challenges,” which he listed to include bridging the short-fall in food production due to loss of farmland and produce, provision of shelter and micro-credit to restore the production base of the informal, as well as the agrarian sectors, which were most hit by the devastation.

In Rivers State, the impact is mainly in the areas traversed by the Orashi and Sombreiro Rivers in the west senatorial district.

Specifically, Ahoada West and East, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni and Abua/Odua councils were in the bull’s eye.

As at last week, a number of the communities lying west of the Ahaoda/Omoku road, off the East-West route, were still cut off by the flood.

From Akabuka and westward through Oboburu, Obagi, Edu, Obigbo and Etu, down to Ohali, the road had become part of the Orashi River.

Eastward to Erema, Ibewa and Ituli, there is respite, thereby forcing a drift in that direct from the western end.

Both sides, demographically, constitute Egi clan, which is part of Ogba Kingdom, where about 90 per cent of the upstream operations of French oil giant, Total, is concentrated.

Chibuzor Ugwoha, the immediate past managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), whose father’s house in Erema has since been taken over by distant relations and even unknown persons sacked by the flood in the west end of the Egi kingdom, said: “I have never seen a thing like this since I was born.

“In situations like this, you do not ask questions or even probe the clans and identities of persons flooding in. The first and most logical thing to do is to let them in and then do whatever is possible to offer them immediate hope.”

There are heart-ripping stories from the impacted areas. Swimming and other aquatic skills are not part of the Ogba people.

Ojum Ite, who claimed he had remained separated from his children and wife since the flood began, explained: “Our people are not conversant with canoes; we cannot swim, we conduct all our businesses on land and so what we are currently witnessing is like asking us to adopt new ways of life after centuries of existence.”

That helplessness was most tragically expressed in the event involving one Odoka Benson from Obagi. He had returned to Obagi from Omoku, where he was taking refuge. At sunset, he was ready to go. As if actually bent on departing finally, he turned down entreaties to stay the night anyhow in the flooded town, because it had become late and the boat operators had closed business for the day.

He reportedly got to the anchorage, forced out a boat and boarded, in company his pregnant wife and daughter of one Pastor Blessing Dikogwo, their two children, a lady and himself.

Apparently, Benson might have reasoned that the business of moving canoes on water was all mechanical without any form of mental calculations. But midway or midstream, because the Akabuka-Obagi road had also become a stream, ‘the captain’ got what he did not bargain for. He was up against the forceful tide of the water flowing across the road.

It became an ill-fated voyage, as everyone on board, except himself, was swept away by the tide.

The lady on board was the elder sister of Wisdom Nwoko-Omere, who is among persons awarded scholarship by the NDDC to pursue post-graduate studies in universities abroad.

“I do not know what my sister went to Obagi to do,” Nwoko-Omere lamented.

Like war time tales, every commentator has something intriguing to report on the flood. One said: “At Oboburo, a woman and her child were swept away by the flood,” stressing, “their bodies have not been seen till today.”

The same fellow added that another woman, who naively bent to adjust her foot wear, slipped and was washed away.

A child whose parents relocated from Edu to Erema fell into a well and could not be rescued.

One Azubike Nwaoga returned from Babcock University in Ogun State, where he is studying hard to become a better priest of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, to begin from the scratch.

The flood overwhelmed his home while away in school and the folks he left behind reported that all his belongings went with the water, except his motor-bike.

He took solace in the Bible: “In all things, we give thanks to God.”

Ojum Ite could not also do much when his house was overrun in Ahoada. “The only thing I could take out of my house is my certificate,” he bemoaned.

His ponds were flooded and the fishes in them spilled into the wild. The collective loss is equally enormous.

Many of the social facilities provided by Total as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to its host communities are endangered.

For instance, the health centre in Ogborgu stood submerged as at last week. The water scheme at Akabuka was itself under water and it was not likely it was still giving good water to the community.

The grand benefactor itself, Total, is battling for a life-line. It has been forced to temporarily closed shop in Ogba Kingdom. Its External Communications manager, Charles Ebereonwu, neither confirmed nor denied out-rightly the claim that the oil company had shut down operations.

He only said: “We are talking about lives here and I think life is more important than production.”

In real terms, this means that about 40,000 barrels of crude, representing Total’s contribution, have been cut back from the 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) national output.

One environmentalist in Port Harcourt added a frightening dimension. He said: “Total’s waste pits and other disposal sites have been flooded. Chemicals and other harmful substances that the company uses in its operations have all been washed into flooded homes and farmlands.

“We cannot measure the extent of impact until a proper assessment is conducted.”

Reacting, Ebereonwu sounded more like a lawyer in court, saying whoever that was asserting should offer proofs.

He said: “This is a nationwide tragedy, not restricted to Total, and so whoever that is alleging pollution should provide the evidence.”

All the same, the company has been part of the coordinated efforts by the Rivers State government at rehabilitating the victims, donating materials to the various relief camps in the area.

Unlike fire, water can hardly be contained. It dissipates on its own and it is not different in the current situation.

In Bayelsa, for instance, much of government business has been limited to managing the flood fall-outs. Even the Creek Haven, Yenagoa, the seat of the state government is not on safe grounds.

The state has been marooned by flowing water for close to a month now into an island. The state-owned Niger Delta University in Amasoma is sacked. So also are primary and secondary schools.

One official of the state said: “The cost of putting government fully back on course when the land becomes dry can only be imagined.”

Source: The Guardian, 27th October 2012.

 

Delta communities protest sack of oil agency’s board

FROM CHIDO OKAFOR, WARRI

MASS protests were held yesterday over the recent sack of Delta State Oil Producing Communities Development Commission (DESOPADEC) by the House of Assembly.

The DESOPADEC board, it was learnt, was dissolved for alleged non-performance despite N149 billion allegedly made available to the agency in the last five years.

But the board that was sacked did not benefit from the fund as it was only a year in office and had allegedly had no fiscal allocation to it to execute projects.

Protesters from oil communities who were angry over the decision of the House to dissolve the board yesterday took over the Warri office of DESOPADEC.

But a combined team of soldiers and mobile policemen was quickly deployed to secure the office premises of the commission which is almost opposite the Navy base.

The protesters numbering hundreds besieged the office carrying placards with various inscriptions and chanting songs against the dissolution of the DESOPADEC board.

Some of the placards read “We’ll not take this decision by the state house of assembly” and “marginalisation can cause ethnic crisis.”

The spokesman of the protesters who identified himself as Omulubi Newuwumi, said the House of Assembly acted in bad faith by dissolving the DESOPADEC board.

“The House rushed to dissolve this board that was fighting to bring development to the people of Delta State. The board was not even allowed to execute any budget before it was dissolved. The right of the legislators also borders on the right of the people and we are of the view that the sacking of the board was anti-people,” Newuwumi said.

But despite the dissolution and sacking of the staff of DESOPADEC, the Commissioner representing the Itsekiri ethnic nation, Chief Michael Diden, yesterday vowed that he would not leave the office as it was not the House of Assembly that appointed him. He said the governor has the right to hire and fire and that he was awaiting the governor’s decision.
Source: The Guardian, 14th September 2012.

 

Niger Delta: Beyond resource control, burdens and realities of transformation

GOVERNOR EMMANUEL EWETA UDUAGHAN

Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan 1

Being text of a lecture delivered by His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan of Delta State at Business Hallmark public policy forum, at Events Centre, Asaba, on August 24, 2012.

READ the organisers’ intention in selecting this topic as an expression of their concern over what becomes of the Niger Delta beyond resource control. In other words, how can the Niger Delta region march on with or without controlling their famed oil and gas resources?

If I were to interpret this further, I might assert, can the Niger Delta region succeed without controlling their resources? The poser can be expanded. Can Nigeria succeed without controlling Niger Delta resources? I shall provide my perspectives in the course of this presentation.

Resource control became a political term from the efforts of Niger Delta peoples to get a fairer share of their God-given resources and more say in their own affairs in relation to the rest of Nigeria. Resource control in that sense therefore, has become a rallying cry for the long-suffering peoples of the Niger Delta region and understandably subject to various interpretations depending on the individual’s stand in the country’s often fractious socio-political and economic debates.

If the demand for resource control has remained trenchant, it is simply because our peoples have for long lived with the stark evidence of a mindless exploitation of the oil resources in their land. They have lived with the despoliation and degradation of their environments without concomitant benefits to them as a people and to their communities where these resources are.

As it eventually happened, the wheel turned and they found their voices and are demanding for justice and for their rights, much to the shock of those who want the exploitation to continue unchallenged. Surprisingly, some have made an enterprise of justifying the suffering in the Niger Delta, in a provocative manner that tends to take the peaceful nature of our peoples for granted. Thankfully, our people have ignored them as we continue the search for justice in the matter.

Dr JD Ikechukwu captured the devastation of the region succinctly in his article on the Niger Delta crises in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution in Nigeria, when he noted that,

“The oil which has brought so much wealth to the multinational oil companies and the Nigerian State has at the same time brought to the people of the Niger Delta untold poverty, disease, persistent pollution, ecological and environmental degradation.”

Sad, as this picture may look, the Nigerian economy has largely depended (85 per cent) on earnings from crude oil sales. On the strength of this single point, it is easy to see the fundamental importance of the Niger Delta region to the Nigerian economy and its oil to global energy resource. Sadly, that importance does not reflect on the treatment the region gets from the federation.

As a ranking exporter of crude oil, Nigeria’s supplies from the Niger Delta region play a crucial role in maintaining global supply stability. On the other hand, finding the delicate balance in the well-being of the Niger Delta region, the demands of the Nigerian economy, and the global community’s energy needs, is at the heart of the complexities associated with issues emanating from and concerning the region.

In a sense, I seem to have answered my second poser, which was, if Nigeria could survive without controlling resources of the Niger Delta region.  Current reality dictates otherwise, from a standpoint of national economic survival, the stability of Nigeria as well as its ability to exercise influence as a sovereign state in the international political system.

If Nigeria derives all these benefits from the resources taken from the Niger Delta region, the moot question is, what  would happen to the peoples of the Niger Delta, when oil and gas resources finish, as they must one day. This, to me, is the more compelling question, which we must urgently address.

Having this in mind therefore, what should a transformation agenda for the Niger Delta look like today? There are two cardinal points, I envisage in this. One, get the most you can from oil now as you transform to a post-oil era; because, like it, or not, that era must come. Two, develop other sources of revenue and diversify your economy to optimise available options or create them. To do the latter, you must revive agriculture and invest in agro-allied industries, enhance rural industrialisation, revive and deepen manufacturing, clean up the environment, develop human capital and upgrade infrastructure.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first leg of the struggle I would say since the return to democratic governance in 1999, these points were not lost on the political leadership of the zone. Let me in this regard salute the pioneering works of our past governors, especially my predecessor, Chief James Ibori and the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, who especially championed the cause of achieving a better and more equitable allocation of resources to the Niger Delta region. That era gave resource control life. The battle, as most will recall, was not easy, as they were often deliberately misunderstood and their leadership questioned. Thanks in large measure to them, the argument for a fairer allocation of federal oil revenue to the Niger Delta region though not won, has become a progressive issue on the national agenda.

We cannot forget also the great efforts of Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River in focusing his State as a tourism destination of choice. It was no surprise then, that when the State lost 76 oil wells in a Supreme Court judgement, Governor Liyel Imoke reminded his people that there was life without oil. He stressed the more important contributions of human resources and tourism to the growth and development of the State. He was not talking out of emotion. A foundation for this has been laid, and he is building on it.

There is indeed, life after oil, and the current leadership of Niger Delta region is immensely aware of this fact. On our part, my administration since inception in May 2007 has made it a covenant with the people to look beyond oil.  We have set for ourselves, a three-point agenda of peace and security, human capital development and infrastructural development. In my article of October 2007, titled, “Delta Without Oil - The Changing Global Economy”, I pondered the question of Delta surviving without oil.  While acknowledging the difficulty, I submitted that,

“This administration from the beginning has thought in that direction. We do not work for the money that comes from oil. It is easy money; it has changed our orientation about hard work. Our young people are growing up in expectation of an easy life from oil.”

I am happy to report that five years on, we have succeeded to some extent, in changing our people’s fixation on oil money. Our first strategy was to return peace to our State, especially as the turmoil was related to contentions over easy money from oil. Without peace and security very little else can take place. Given the long years of military rule and the upsurge in militancy in the entire Niger Delta region, no thanks to the divide-and- rule strategy which was often employed to keep our peoples apart, restoring peace and security to our State was not the easiest assignment to undertake. Our strategy of persistently engaging the different peoples and interests in our State has ensured peace for even development.

Commenting on this age-long security challenge, Democracy in Nigeria: Continuing Dialogue(s) for Nation-building, noted on the Niger Delta in Chapter 11,

“We may characterise the history of the democratic struggles of the people of the Niger Delta as consisting of two main directions: resistance to European pacification, domination by ethnic majorities, and most recently, military authoritarianism. At the heart of this resistance lie the control of resources and livelihoods. Initially, it was the rich trade in commodities on the Oil Rivers; now it is the control of the rich petroleum resources of the Niger Delta.”

Obviously, the security challenge is enormous and complex, but with security and peace top on our agenda and the huge resources we have deployed to their attainment, a lot has been achieved in maintaining the peace which we now enjoy.

We have also invested heavily in human capital and infrastructural development of the State.   As I have often done, I am going to reiterate some of the highpoints of our programmes, which are geared towards building our vision of Delta beyond oil.

Delta State with a land area of 18,050 square kilometres, substantial portions of which are riverine, marshy and underdeveloped is challenging, but not impossible to develop. What it demands is enormous investment in money, energy and time. We are compelled to develop remote areas as many of our people have opted to live on their ancestral lands—which in many cases are locations of oil facilities, flow stations and pipelines. We believe they should get the best from the proceeds of the resources taken from their land. That, to me, is the fair and just thing to do.

I also sense that many people outside these areas have no understanding of life in the creeks. They are not concerned that our people living in those parts should be treated as equal and are entitled to enjoy life as others.  As an administration, we do not share such cynical attitude which, I might add, is a major source of anger and frustration for our people in the oil producing areas and other parts of rural Delta.

Our administration is sincere and determined to change the landscape of the riverine and oil producing areas. It is therefore the singular reason we are perhaps the only State that is heavily funding its agency for that purpose. The Delta State Oil Mineral Development Commission, DESOPADEC, has since its creation been receiving 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation to support state government’s own programmes in developing the oil producing and impacted areas of the State.

The funding of DESOPADEC is huge and accounts for the decline of funds at the state level, but we are not deterred. We believe that from whom much is taken, much should also be given. If Nigeria were to embrace similar principle, the peoples of Niger Delta would feel justice done to them with respect to their contribution to the wealth and growth of the country. This is especially important as the terrain they live in is an extremely difficult one to develop.

In many areas we are developing, we have had to build schools, hospitals, access roads, bridges, electricity and clean water from zero.  We have had to contend with oil pollution and its environmental degradation, which has left many of our peoples without sustainable means of livelihood.

For our administration, it will be unconscionable to overlook this state of affairs. Our intervention is to rescue our people who are facing destitution, poverty and squalor. It is unacceptable not to speak out on their behalf. We have to be their voice, otherwise they are voiceless. The whole struggle of resource control is about our people, such that when oil finishes or loses its global relevance, we would carry on with life with minimal disruption to our revenue sources.

Overall, we have not been deterred in our pursuit of developmental programmes - challenging as it is. The vision to build a Delta beyond oil, is a daunting one, but clearly conceived in anticipation of the day we will not depend on it entirely or the day oil will be one of the many other revenue streams of the State, not its only main revenue stream. All over the world, feverish effort is being made to end oil’s dominance of the energy basket. We will be foolish not to prepare for the end of the oil era.

To prepare us for that day, this administration has been implementing systematic plans to protect the State from the shock by building infrastructure that will support diversification of the economy. Our infrastructure is both human and physical; we are in a hurry even though our vision spans a 50-year period. We believe that the thinking, planning, and implementation have to begin today.

Our plan is simple - do that which we can with an abiding concern for the future. We leave when our time is up. When we hand over, it will be a State, which others can build on because we have laid a solid foundation for its future, something that is sometimes difficult for our critics to understand. In that regard, our objective was never to finish all the projects we began, though we are determined to ensure most are completed or at irreversible stages of development.

I am satisfied that the State is moving in the right decision. If this process continues, I foresee a future in which the State will earn value from all the investments we are making.  The journey we have embarked upon is a difficult one, but as I said in a recent presentation,

“I am rather pleased we had the confidence and willpower to even begin it at all. Future generations will, I am sure, look to this moment and salute our courage.”

In building a Delta that will prosper beyond oil, we reckoned it was important we had the following critical infrastructures – Oghareki power plant, Asaba International Airport, upgrade Osubi Airport to international standards, industrial clusters, (Koko Industrial Park, Warri Industrial and Business Park, and Asaba ICT Park). We thought we should harness our people’s entrepreneurial skills through our Micro Credit Scheme and nurture SMEs.

Our success with Micro Credit Scheme is spectacular. We have won three consecutive CBN awards and we have about 100,000 beneficiaries of the scheme whose stories are as enthralling as they are varied. Other States are understudying the Delta State model because of its acknowledged successes.

We have as much as possible partnered with big private investors in co-funding projects such as the multi-billion Naira OFN/Delta Farms, the N40 billion Delta Leisure Park, which on completion will make the Delta the tourist destination of choice. Some of these projects are the foundations of our hope of a better future in which other opportunities can become relevant in stimulating the prosperity of our State.

From what we have been doing, the picture of Delta State that is emerging is one that should give us great optimism and belief in the State and ourselves. For that reason, I feel as I said the other day that we should take pride in our infrastructure programme that has seen us construct 252 inter/intra city roads. I am confident that with the dualisation of major roads that include 148 km Asaba-Ughelli,  33 km Ugbenu-Koko, Effurun-Osubi-Eku, 7.2 km Ughelli Artery, PTI/Jakpa, Old Lagos/Asaba among others, we are gradually eliminating bottleneck in movement of goods and creating major network grids to link all the corners of the State.

The results of our human capital programme have been remarkable. We are making progress in addressing maternal and child mortality rate in the State. Our performance is commendable. There is a steep drop in maternal and child mortality rate in our hospitals. New health care facilities are being constructed or upgraded, but of note for me is the progress of Oghara Teaching Hospital as a centre of excellence. With current efforts, soon, Oghara Teaching Hospital would become a centre of note in Africa. I am sure with Oghara Teaching Hospital we will contribute to reversing the search for healthcare treatment outside Nigeria.

We are investing heavily in infrastructure upgrade and modernisation of our public schools for our children, teaching and non-teaching staff facilities.   So far about eighteen thousand classrooms have been built, renovated or upgraded. We will still do more. With collaborative efforts and keeping to standards, the physical condition of our schools can compare with any in the world, in a few years.

Through our liberal programme in education, we are giving our brightest youth with first class degrees, a head start in life. Our offer of scholarships, up to PhD level, tenable in any university of their choice, is a deliberate investment in the future.

These youths are prized assets who will look back with pride the support they received from their government. In a knowledge driven world, we are positioning our best and brightest not to be left behind. We are also sending a message to our other youth to step up and enjoy similar opportunities. We have also been consistent in payment of our bursary to augment financial investment made by parents in the training of their wards.

Ultimately, our investment in human capacity in particular in our youths will stand out as perhaps the wisest investment we have made as an administration. I hope future administrations will sustain this programme of creating generations of knowledgeable youths, committed to the future of Delta.

Making our youths knowledgeable and competitive is certainly another step in widening the options available to Delta State, when oil becomes irrelevant.

Since this lecture is about the Niger Delta region and what its current crop of leaders envisions for the zone, I want to repeat the point I made last April at the 2nd South-South Economic Summit, which I hosted here in Asaba. I said then,

“I am proud of what we are doing in Delta State as well as in my sister Niger Delta States. When we as governors of the South-South States came together three years ago to create the South-South Economic Summit with the BRACED Commission as its driving force, we were deliberately taking steps to leverage on areas of our core competences and  to optimise same for the benefit of all, knowing fully that we are not all equally endowed. I am confident therefore in the future of the Niger Delta and the South-South region as we seek new ways of collaboration with our sister States and across the regions both within and outside the country.”

In several ways, we have shown aggressive commitment towards economic integration and partnership in the zone.  The BRACED Commission is envisioned as a strategic vehicle through which we can deliver on our expectations. It is our hope that in due course we can become the country’s new economic powerhouse.

Furthermore, I am confident about this because at individual level, the various States are making significant progress. Rivers State is taking giant strides in its renewal efforts with great things to show in its update of the public school system, health care and general infrastructure revamp. I can say the same for Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Edo, notwithstanding the latter being a non-PDP State.

For us as governors in the Niger Delta region there is a near unanimity of opinions on what our priorities should be, no matter the differences in resources available to the States. Our human capital development rests on the simultaneous pursuit of education, provision of healthcare, especially primary healthcare to the young, vulnerable and the aged, the upgrade of existing infrastructure and provision of new ones; reviving agriculture and expanding the economic base as well as provision of sports and recreational facilities. These are some of the priorities of our administrations.

A major concern for us also and why we must look beyond resource control and indeed oil, is the devastation of the environment. As I have noted earlier, there are global concerns about the future relevance of oil and the need for cleaner sources of energy. We in the Niger Delta region and Nigeria, as a whole, must share in these concerns. We are aware of the effect of the exploration activities of the oil companies in the Niger Delta region over the years and how that has affected our lives forever. The fact that worldwide huge investments are being poured into developing and commercialising low carbon energy options for cleaner energy only tells us that the days of resource control as it relates to fossil oil are numbered.

Even as we live with the damage already done to our environment, eco-system, economy and total well-being, I have been very concerned about these issues because I also know these damages can be reversed. Our environment can be restored. We can mitigate pollution; the oil industry operators can apply best practices in technology as they do abroad. I have in this respect sought collaboration and partnership both at home and abroad on how to achieve a better treatment of the environment; I am keen that our peoples can have access to cleaner and sustainable energy.

It is a matter of urgency, something in the realm of an emergency. I have often wondered if the Niger Delta environment cannot be reconstructed now, with its vast contributions to the economy what will happen when oil ceases to flow. Where would Nigeria find the resources and political will to clean up the environment? This is probably a more important, though more ignored aspect of resource control.

Despoliation of the environment of the Niger Delta has far-reaching global consequences than the immediate suffering of its peoples. Gas flaring and the wasting of the Niger Delta’s rain forests are contributing to global warming, destruction of aquatic lives and their replacement with a wasteland that would displace millions of people.

That is why as Governor, I have linked up with Governors and regional leaders across the world to float R20, an international non-governmental organisation committed to global promotion of green economy and environmentally sustainable economic developments.

High construction costs in the region – a result of its marshy soil, its disparate islands, and creeks – means that the region cannot be developed within the funds currently allocated to it. There is still need for more intervention, specifically on projects likes the East West Road that would open the Niger Delta to more economic and social activities than oil and gas exploration. These matters rank high in our concerns about the region but they are too often lost to the louder voices in the contests for shares of national revenue.

Study after study has shown the imperative of the East West Road, and the economic potentials that it bears, not only for the Niger Delta region, but also for other parts of the country that can be connected at various spurs in the road’s designs by further developments like railways. Major projects like the coastal road would open up numerous inaccessible parts of the Niger Delta regions and connect them to the numerous opportunities Nigeria has to develop for her people.

Yet I want to caution that no one should be deceived, the neglect of the Niger Delta region over the years is serious even if the peoples bear the brunt with a waning equanimity. The level of degradation with all the attendant consequences on our environment resulting from oil and gas exploration and production activities is even more serious. The resources required for a total revamp of the Niger Delta region are enormous, far more than the present 13 per cent derivation can ever address.

That is why resource control, though we are looking beyond it, will not die.  Ikechukwu in the same article citied earlier referred to the Niger Delta region as “a prime example of deprivation directly traceable to the absence of true federalism.”  The rest of the federation must do what is right to the Niger Delta region. We must go back to what served us well at the very beginning of this nation. There must be fiscal federalism. People must benefit from what they produce. No one is by this saying that the peoples of this federation do not have a responsibility to one another. We must remain our brothers’ keepers.

I accept that some of these matters are constitutional, but I also believe that they are issues of equity and fairness. Since we are in the process of amending the Constitution, it is time our legislators looked at justice, equity and fairness in addressing these issues. We cannot continue supporting the destruction of the Niger Delta region – which is what our silences and inactions represent – while the peoples are dying and the future of their forebears compromised.

My position is that one way we can be assisted to address the myriads of challenges that we face and to compensate for the violence and despoliation visited on our environment, is a modest increase to 50 per cent derivation. It is entirely in order.  My appeal is that as leaders and representatives of our peoples we should not stop engaging others and reaching out at our different fora to press our case.  One such forum which has served us very well is the Governors’ Forum. We will continue to seek all avenues for a better understanding and fairer representation of the issues affecting the peoples of the Niger Delta region. As we have seen from the recent intense militancy, which enveloped the entire Niger Delta region and made security of lives and oil production difficult, a wound to one is a wound to all.  To put it mildly, it was a double jeopardy, the worst of which we must put behind us forever.

I want to add that it is not all a gloomy picture in the Niger Delta region. We must put on record some gains that have accrued to the Niger Delta region. The Amnesty Programme started by the administration of late President Yar’Adua  and sustained by the present Goodluck Jonathan administration has helped secure more peace in the region and freed more resources for development. As at the last count, over 5,200 ex-militants have undergone or are undergoing training in various institutions at home and abroad. The salutary effect on the Niger Delta region and the entire nation is there for all to see.

The creation of a separate Ministry of Niger Delta at the centre can only mean a willingness to show more understanding of the peculiar problems of the region. It must not stop there however. The Ministry must be properly funded and repositioned to carry out its mandate as there is presently cause to worry about its relevance and direction. There is also the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which continues to impact the various communities of the Niger Delta. Our hope is that it will continue to re-invent itself to meet its set mandate better.

What the peoples of the Niger Delta region would want to see are more profound programmes that would save their environment and open up their areas for economic activities, especially away from oil and gas. The opportunities abound and are waiting to be explored. Agriculture is one such area and the favourable climate of the region creates room for commercial practices from palm oil, cassava, yam, maize, and poultry to the more traditional fishing. More elevated linkages like preservation and packaging of these products for export, industrial and home consumption, will create more sustainable and environmentally friendly economic activities than oil and gas production.

In closing, I cannot be more optimistic. Democracy holds a lot of promise for the Niger Delta region and indeed, Nigeria. Not too long ago, it was almost inconceivable that our country can elect a president without him being from particular extractions. Now we have a president from a minority section of the country. It is one of the beauties of democracy that we can pass that bridge.

We did not only elect a minority, but one from the Niger Delta region! The message is not lost on our peoples. What this means is that we only have to be patient with our processes. The parties are evolving through internal democratic mechanisms. The electoral process, given time, is bound to be more accountable as the votes count more. The laws and institutions of the country will evolve and be strengthened through reforms and amendments. They will hopefully take us, at the end of the day, to a Niger Delta region and country of our dreams.

As I have pointed out throughout the course of this presentation, the road is paved with thorns, sweat and blood, but the end will justify the challenging means.

Source: The Guardian, 27th August 2012.

 

Fast tracking development in the Niger Delta

By Oghenekevwe Laba

Before now, poverty, illiteracy and high rate of criminal activities ranging from militancy, piracy, armed robbery, oil pipeline vandalism and incessant attack on oil pipeline and platforms were the order of the day in the Niger Delta Region.

Today, the situation looks different. Environment experts say the damage done to the Niger Delta Region fragile natural environment and to the health of the people was due largely to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude oil and natural gas, which led to numerous spills, gas flaring, the opening up of the forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalizations, flooding, and coastal erosion and earth tremor.

Criminal activities in the region resulting from the degradation of the region led to speedy decline of the nation’s economy as the oil production which is our main source of revenue generation dropped to all time low rate of 700 barrels per day.

Reasons for the criminal activities in the region were not farfetched. The indigenes of the region felt that as the ‘chicken that lay the golden eggs’, they ought to feel the impact of the resources drained from their area. Successive governments from military rule to democratic government neglected the region.

But the people breathe a sigh of relief when Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua became the President of Nigeria in 2007. The President saw reasons with the people of the region and decided to implement programmes that will ameliorate their sufferings. Thus, he introduced the amnesty programme and urged the warring youths of the region to embrace the programme by denouncing hostility and handling over their illegally acquired fire arms to the government. Unfortunately Yar’Adua did not live long to see the programme the fruit of the programmes he started.

However, President Goodluck Jonathan, who took over from Yar’Adua as the President of Nigeria did not let his late boss down as he implemented the programme to the latter. Thus, three years after the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants, the man at the helm of its affairs, Kingsley Kuku, is handling the glory to President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he said had pursued the programme with a single-minded tenacity. Kuku, Special Adviser to the President, said the President’s attitude for the success of the programme was all part of his greater picture of leaving behind a united country with a robust economy, where the citizens and foreigners would be free to live and pursue their trades under a safe environment. According to him, the success of the programme had seen the growth of oil production in the Niger Delta Region from a mere 700 barrels per day at the peak of the crisis in the Niger Delta area to the current 2.6million barrels per day, and a leap in its earnings. The militants, who had been targeting oil installations apart from engaging in other forms of activities that made the area unsafe to live and do business have all been evacuated from the creeks and have been rehabilitated at various institutions in Nigeria and abroad, where they are learning both formal and informal skills.

A total of 5,204 ex-militants are currently undergoing various forms of skills acquisition training or formal education in Nigeria and other parts of the world. The career choices selected by the delegates range from marine, heavy duty operations, welding, agriculture, boat building, oil and gas technics, entrepreneurship, automobile technology and aviation among others. The Amnesty programme’s trainees are spread across 28 foreign training institutions in 15 countries across the globe and 36 local training institutions in 10 states of the federation. No fewer than 5,067 of the beneficiaries had already graduated in skills acquisition fields such as welding and fabrication (1,847), entrepreneurship (1,609), pipe fitting (150), carpentry & plumbing (206), oil drilling (32), electrical installation (232), ICT (125), marine related courses (564) and others (302). Already, 95 delegates have been offered direct employment in various governmental and private establishments. Besides, the Amnesty Office is putting finishing touches to mentoring programmes that would see many of the graduates becoming self-employed and employing other Nigerian youths. In addition, 6,280 delegates had already been processed for deployment to local and foreign training institutions to undergo courses ranging from aviation technicians, oil and gas technicians, marine technicians, entrepreneurial development programmes as well as formal education.

The rehabilitation of the militants has resulted in the creating of peace and security in the region which has led to the production of between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as against the abysmally low between 700,000 and 800,000 barrels per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in January 2009, the nation and its Joint Venture Partners are currently making production savings of up to 1.9 million barrels per day. When computed with prevailing exchange rate of about N160 to $1, daily production savings for Nigeria and the JV partners currently stand at a minimum of N33.4 billion per day. Given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for all of 2011, it would be safe to emphatically assert that savings for Nigeria and the JV partners for year ending 2011 is estimated to be a whopping N6 trillion.

As for infrastructural development, Jonathan through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and other intervention agencies has provided good roads which link the adjoining communities of the area. This has led to improvement of trade and social activities among members of the various communities. Dilapidated school buildings are renovated to standard while new ones were constructed to meet modern standard. Bridges are constructed to link riverine areas.

Besides, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is fast tracking the completion of 57 ongoing projects valued at N1.3 trillion spread across the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The Managing Director of the commission, Dr Christian Oboh, stated recently in Port Harcourt that the new board had resolved to award fewer contracts and speed up the completion of the 57 on-going projects inherited from the previous board.

Although critics may argue that enough has not been done in the region, but critical observation showed that ever since Jonathan mounted the saddle of power, there have been serious developments in the region, particularly in human, infrastructure, economy and social aspect. This development has led to increase in the financial balance sheet of the country.

Laba, a journalist, wrote from Lagos

 

N’Delta: Challenges for NDDC and partners

BY IFEATU AGBU

Fast-tracking development in the Niger Delta is not only desirable, it is imperative for the sustainable peace that would ensure the continued exploitation of the oil and gas resources that constitute over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export earnings. This must have spurred the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to introduce the amnesty programme which, to a large extent, has calmed the hitherto restive youths of the oil-rich region.

The challenge now is to sustain the gains of the amnesty programme by embarking on tangible development projects that would positively change the lives of the people, and also enlist them as vanguards of the protection of oil installations and vulnerable pipelines criss-crossing the Niger Delta. Even now, the oil industry is being threatened by the activities of criminals who seem to have taken over from where the militants left off.

According to the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Austen Oniwon, thieves are stealing about 180,000 barrels worth of crude oil every day from pipelines and through illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta. So, as it is, high-profile criminals have taken over illegal oil trading activities from militants who hitherto engaged in such acts.

Counting the cost in monetary terms, the Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the country was losing $5bn (N780bn) annually to the oil thieves.

Thanks to the amnesty programme, the oil thieves can now be distinguished from the militants who were genuinely agitating for a fair deal from the Federal Government. This is why no effort should be spared in ensuring that the fruits of the official pardon are fully enjoyed by the people who bear the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation.

In order to make things happen as quickly as expected, the development agencies such as the oil companies, the federal, state, and local governments, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission must collaborate at different levels and key in to the regional development master plan already approved by the central government.

The NDDC, which facilitated the production of the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, is well placed to drive the process of its implementation. So far, the commission has been making efforts to build enduring partnerships and embarking on targeted engagements with strategic stakeholders.

Recently, the Presidential Monitoring Committee on NDDC held an interactive session with stakeholders in the region where it was agreed that the commission would focus more on completing all on-going projects awarded since its inception. The commission has commenced an audit of ongoing projects across the region to enable it to identify the status of such projects in order to prioritise their completion, based on available resources.

The NDDC has always joined forces with key stakeholders in confronting the enormous challenge of making a difference in the lives of the people in the remote communities of the Niger Delta. One of such collaborations is in the construction of the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe road, which it is undertaking in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The N9.6bn project illustrates the kind of challenges confronting the Niger Delta. It cuts through the swamps with 10 bridges and 99 culverts. The terrain is such that four metres of clay soil has to be dug out and then sand-filled to provide a base for the road. It shouldn’t surprise anyone therefore, to learn that constructing a road in this tough environment costs twice or thrice of what is required in other parts of the country. This is a project many previous administrations thought was impossible. Now, work on the road is progressing appreciably.

The master plan, which has been generally applauded as a worthy compass for the development of the region, needs to be adequately funded and meticulously implemented in order to translate the lofty plans into tangible projects and programmes. The big ticket projects articulated in the plan require enormous resources to execute.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government which is supposed to lead the way in ensuring adequate funding for the commission, for many years under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, failed to meet the statutory obligations to the commission. For many years, the interventionist agency was getting only 10 per cent of funding from it, instead of the statutory 15 per cent. This resulted in the much-talked about N500bn debt that the Federal Government owes the commission.

Apart from the Federal Government which did not comply with the provisions of the Act during the Obasanjo years, some of the oil companies have also not been paying the three per cent of their annual budget, as required by law. Records show that they deduct first charges before calculating the three per cent from the balance. It is more like cutting the nose to spite the face, given that what they spend for the development of the Niger Delta is for their own good at the end of the day.

Considering the enormous impact of their activities on the environment, the oil companies are expected to be at the forefront in the critical task of remediating, and, indeed, the comprehensive development of the oil basin that has suffered so much neglect in the past. It is, in fact, in their interest to develop the region where they operate in order to guarantee peace, which is very necessary for them to continue with their business.

The oil companies should embrace global best practices in the execution of their business in the Niger Delta. Ultimately, this will enhance their profile and expedite the development process of our country.

Agbu wrote vide ifeatuagbu@yahoo.com

Source: Punch, 24th June 2012.

 

Amaechi: How to Develop N’Delta

Governor  Rotimi Amaechi
Governor  Rotimi Amaechi

By  Ernest Chinwo                

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has said the Niger Delta region can only be well developed when power and transportation are given priority attention.

Amaechi said this when the Chairman, Senator James Manager, and members of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta paid him a courtesy visit yesterday at Government House, Port Harcourt, the state capital.

He highlighted some of the issues reviewed when the Advisory Council of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) recently met with the chairman and the managing director of the NDDC.

“About a month or two ago we sat with the Chairman and the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and reviewed some of the things they were doing and came to the conclusion that we are tired of all these six-classroom blocks, all these one to two to three kilometres of roads; and we advised that the key to the development of Niger Delta will be power and transportation.

“So we agreed that first, the NDDC should try and conclude the other projects they have started. It is important because the different states in the Niger Delta region are littered with uncompleted projects, poor quality jobs as the case may be,” Amaechi said.

He said the construction of a railway linking all the Niger Delta States would promote trade and investment, while power must also be stable in the Niger Delta to attract development.

According to him, “We said the Niger Delta Development Commission should go and do a railway that connects all the Niger Delta states from Cross River to Akwa Ibom, Akwa Ibom to Rivers, Rivers to Bayelsa, Bayelsa to Delta, Delta to Edo, Edo to Ondo; then from Rivers to Abia, Abia to Imo and we are linked.  That way you have economic activities moving around this region and we will be able to develop accordingly.

“Then we also said power is even more essential than railway, so we said the NDDC can invest in power generation and distribution so that the region can have power.”

Amaechi also said investment in agriculture through the BRACED Commission would be made to create employment for the Niger Delta people and reduce crime.

He urged the committee to ensure prudent use of funds by government interventionist agencies or ministry for the Niger Delta to impact positively on the lives of the people.

Earlier, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator James Manager, said they were in Rivers State as a starting point for a Senate oversight function trip that would take them to all states of the Niger Delta which over the years have had lots of developmental challenges.

Source: ThisDay, 31st May 2012

 

Nigeria: Niger Delta Ministry and Funds Challenge

BY CHRIS OCHAYI

OPINION

BEFORE the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs over three years ago by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua on September 10, 2009, violence bordering on rebellion and militancy enveloped the region.

The militancy at that period reached the alarming proportion, which culminated in unprecedented level of insecurity of lives and property.

Not only that, the crisis in the region brought about dwindling economic fortunes in the country as it crippled oil exploration activities in the region, on account of serial premeditated attacks launched on the equipment and installations belonging to major multi-national oil firms operating in the region.

Oil production in the region reduced to an all time low of 700,000 barrels per day, a development that crippled the running of affairs of the government since crude oil exportation is the mainstay of the nation's economy.

What triggered off the agitation for resource control, which was to later snowball into full aggression by youths in the region, has been traced to several years of neglect of the region by successive administrations in the country. Having come to terms with this disturbing situation, the late President Yar'Adua created the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to address the prevalent problems in the region.

Another response from the Federal Government that helped to foster relative peace in the region was the proclamation of amnesty for militants willing to lay down their arms. In the event, over 26, 358 militants left the creeks to surrender their arms and ammunition after accepting the amnesty programme of the government.

The Ministry and the proclamation of the amnesty have in no small measure contributed to the relative peace presently being enjoyed in the region which has led to the increase in oil output from 700,000 bpd at the height of the restiveness in the region to over 2.5 million bpd.

But it will appear that the peace in the region is now being threatened by lack of funds for the Ministry to execute its post-amnesty programmes. The hope and expectations of the people are fast evaporating due to the stagnant status of several development projects in the region.

This was recently brought to public notice by the Minister of Niger Delta Afairs, Chief Godsday Orubebe while addressing members of the House of Representatives Committee on the Ministry.

He noted that the N59.72 billion appropriated to the Ministry in the 2012 fiscal year "was grossly inadequate to cater for ongoing development projects in the region". He told the Committee members who were on oversight function visit that the amnesty programme initiated by his ministry accounted for the country's oil output rising to 2.5 billion bdp, following relative peace being experienced in the region.

The Minister, therefore, requested for a legislation to ensure that five per cent of the revenue accruable in production levels is made available to the Ministry to fund the deficit areas of its budget in order to encourage growth and development.

Expressing concern that laudable economic empowerment programmes that are highly desirable for the development of the once neglected region are marred by the continuous short falls of the ministry's appropriation, the Minister added that "not less than 25 on-going community projects designed to hook the region to the national grid, would be discontinued, due to never ending short falls in the money released for the actualisation of the planned development of the region".

He said: "Three years after the Nigerian government keyed into the Ministry's bold initiative to grant amnesty to militants fighting mainly for development and job opportunities in the oil-rich Niger River Delta, violence has diminished, and oil revenues - which dropped at the height of the conflict - have increased,(i-e from 750,000 barrels per day to 2.5million)".

Orubebe, therefore appealed to relevant authorities to as a matter of urgency, provide a corridor for real funding for intervention projects.

Giving a breakdown of his Ministry's attainment with regards to their mandate in the nine Niger Delta states, he posited that the East- West road project inherited from the Ministry of Works at less than 10 % completion now stand at 48% completion.

Other achievements, according to him are 32% completion of skill acquisition centres, 55% completion of housing units project, creation of 7000 jobs which has enhanced local content policy of government, 71% completion of land reclamation job, 50% completion of erosion control project, among others.

The pitiful picture painted by Elder Orubebe infuriated the lawmakers who lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan over the allocation it described as a new threat to the much enjoyed relative peace in the region.

The lawmakers maintained that unless the executive takes a second look at the issue of meagre budgetary allocation for critical projects in the area, the quest for lasting peace in the region might be elusive. They warned that if the aim of establishing the ministry, mandated to formulate policies to fast track development in the region, is defeated, then it will be an indictment of both the legislature and the executive.

Recall that at the time the Ministry took over the construction of the East -West road, the contractors were complaining of lack of funds. However, it is gratifying to note that during the first inspection tour of the Minister in 2009, the contractors praised the Ministry because funds were made available to them as at when due and work progressed steadily.

It would appear, however, that the gains of 2009 have slowed in the succeeding years. Funding to the project has dwindled resulting in stagnation of work on the East-West road.

Mr. CHRIS OCHAYI, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.

Source: Vanguard, 30th May 2012

 

Niger Delta: A people on death row (II)

ROBINSON TOMBARI SIBE

The case of Bodo is just one of the many instances of how the host communities have suffered from the activities of oil and gas exploration. A report released by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in 2010 states that within the last four years alone, a total of 3,203 spills have been recorded in the Niger Delta. It is noteworthy that the region has practically lived with oil spill all these years. In 1978, there was the GOCON Escravos spill that discharged over 300,000 barrels to the environment; the Forcados terminal tank failure of 1978 also discharged about 580,000 barrels to the environment; the FUNIWA-5 oil well blow out of 1980 discharged about 400,000 barrels. It is also noteworthy that all these cases, in terms of volume of discharge, the spills were greater than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 which has been referenced more often. The combined spill in the region dwarfs the quantity spilled at the Gulf of Mexico. Little wonder our hippos, crocs, dolphins, otters, etc are either driven into extinction or seriously endangered.

Only December last year, over 35,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the Bonga oil field, ravaging flora and fauna in the creeks and neighbouring communities. Bonga field has a production capacity of about 200,000 barrels per day. Going by the benchmark price (according to 2012 budget) of oil at $72 per barrel, it means this oil field potentially produces $14,400,000 or N2.232 billion per day when operated at full capacity. A community whose land and territorial waters hold such potentials should not be toyed with, but all they get is one spill after another, with no proper clean-up, remediation and compensation. On January 16, there was a gas explosion at a Chevron rig in Southern Ijaw LGA. The fire raged on for 46 days, destroying everything that came its way and polluting the ecosystem as well. This raging fire inflicted untold hardship on the people, crippling the local economy, and with grave health implications. Last month, there was also a gas leakage reported at a Total gas plant in Obite, Rivers State. Need I mention the devastating effects of the roaring flames that are littered everywhere in the region (gas flares)?

Worse still is the attitude of these companies responsible for the spill. I remember a particular post impact assessment (PIA) of an oil spill somewhere in Akwa Ibom State conducted by one of the major oil companies. The name of the project was changed to “PIA of Liquid Release” instead of “PIA of Oil Spill”, just to downplay the weight of the incident they are supposedly investigating. Their excuse was that it was oil and water that were “released”. They did all they could to avoid using the words “spill” and “oil”. They quickly map out imaginary boundaries (containment zone) that will suit them, claiming the oil was promptly contained within that area. Such is their audacity! In the recently announced gas leakage at the Obite gas plant, the company was quick to announce that it was harmless without conducting a thorough PIA. Also, these companies are quick to issue disclaimers, blaming spills on sabotage without thorough investigation. I can go on and on, and yes, they’ve been having a field day.

These companies have continued to pollute the environment, not minding the necessary statutory and legal regulations. The Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN) provides the necessary regulations to follow when there is a spill. According to EGASPIN, clean-up is supposed to commence within 24 hours of incidence. The guideline also stipulates that “specific milestones must be met within 30 to 60 days after the spill”. It also states that for all waters, “there shall be no visible oil sheen after the first 30 days of the occurrence of the spill no matter the extent of the spill”. These regulations are clearly specified, yet the companies violate them with impunity. There is a community in Eleme where soil samples still had unacceptable hydrocarbon contents over 30 years after the oil spill occurred. Worse still is the fact that these environmental catastrophes cannot be so easily reversed. The UNEP report estimates that it will take about 30 years to clean up and restore Ogoniland to her pristine state.

Finally, for those who think the title of this article is a little too harsh, I’d like you to take a look at the potential impacts of oil spill in the region, as summarized by UNEP: high mortality of aquatic animals; impairment of human health; loss of biodiversity in breeding grounds; vegetation destruction and other ecological hazards; loss of potable and industrial water resources; reduction in fishing activation; poverty, rural underdevelopment and bitterness.

To further emphasize the dangers of exposure to these contaminants, UNEP recommended in their report on Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland: “Everyone who has consumed water from contaminated sources (most of the groundwater samples had high unaccepted levels of hydrocarbon content) should be requested to undertake a comprehensive medical examination by physicians knowledgeable about the possible adverse health effects of the hydrocarbons detected.”

Anyone consistently exposed to the above will surely die faster than he should have. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that we have been systematically sentenced to death by the system. They seem to have concluded on how we will die, it is only a matter of time and the “hangman” will show up. It won’t be by firing squad, gas chamber, a guillotine or an electric chair; somehow they know we won’t be able to survive the toxins around us, we’ll die anyway – gloriously or ingloriously. We are on death row, albeit, innocently! We must force an appeal, lest we all die.
Source: Business Day, 2nd May 2012.

 

The Niger Delta question: An Ijaw struggle? (1)

BY SOLOMON ABUTOH

“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a lamp that burnet ‘(Isaiah 62; 1)’

The above scripture aptly describes the perspective from which this piece is being put across at this time of our national.

At independence, Nigeria’s political structure rested on a seemingly okay but fragile tripod, inform of three regions; North, West, and East. On January 15th, 1966 however, the first military putsch led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu set the tune for other events that were to unfold.

February 23, 1966 saw Major Isaac Adaka Boro declaring Independent Niger Delta at Akaima, a movement that was swiftly crushed by federal troops within 12 days, Boro himself got killed in the process.

The ensuing 30- month civil war occasioned by the declaration of Republic of Biafra by Lt Col Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, a declaration that had the entire Eastern States, including now Rivers, Bayelsa, and part of then Mid –West Region under its purview , saw Ojukwu putting his Oxford, Sand Hurst education, and father’s wealth in pursuit, prosecution of an apparently misunderstood but just cause.

That Col. Phillip Effiong was second in command ,and Col. Victor Banjo was one of the key commanders,meant Biafra was not an entirely Igbo affairs. Though the war ended on January 10th 1970 with” no victor no vanquished “ the very remote causes for the secessionist bid stare us starkly in the face, even today!

After the civil war and further balkanization of the nation in the name of states’ creation, all seemed calm at least on the surface. On December 20th 1996, I dispatched a letter on state of the nation to late General Sanni Abacha, a letter which apparently necessitated the “Nigeria praise” programmed through out the country for the whole of the 1997, with General Gowon coordinating.

Late Pope John Paul ll was to visit Nigeria at the instance of the Federal Government at a cost of over 900 million Naira. At the end of the day, the man Abacha still died right in his fortress! Former CSO Al-Mustapha currently standing trial in Lagos, must still recall that letter. Whether they acted well by ignoring the author of such a letter is another matter.

On October 8th 1998, I dispatched another letter to General Abdulsalami Abubakar through his cousin,Umar Abdullahai resident in Minna, warning clearly that the Niger Delta region which seemed quiet was a time- bomb set to explode. Again, the author was ignored, with the Federal government preferring to set up the Popoola commission, at a whopping cost of 15.3billion Naira, money which went down the drain!

In November 2002, I published an article on page 27 in the Global Health –Link Magazine, which dwelt on the Niger Delta situation, with emphasis on Ogoni land, Odi.Sunday, December15th 2002, on page 20 of the Punch Newspapers saw my extensive interview on the Niger Delta question.

January 1st 2003, page 32 of the Global Health -Link Magazine , in my column entitled state of the world , I made specific reference to Nigeria as the “gathering of dark clouds”. On the 10th of June 2006, page 14 of the Punch Newspapers, I had another extensive interview on the Niger Delta question (four years from the first one)

That the Niger Delta region eventually exploded, with federal government losing an estimated 290.5 billion Naira in oil revenue daily , Warri and Port Harcout refineries closed down points, power supply down to 2,200 mw, from 6000 mw, the question now is where are we coming from, where are we now, where do we go from here? The Niger Delta region is populated by various ethnic nationalities including the Urhobos, Itsekiris,Edos, Ijaws, Ogonis, Efiks, Ibibios, Andonis,Kalabairis,Igbos yes, Igbos – a Swiss firm prospects oil around Owerri, Imo state .

Then came 14th of September, 2008, when late President Umaru Yar’Adua ordered 7000 troops backed by two warshipis,14 gunboats to execute the deepest military offensive ever in the Niger Delta region.

This JTF action saw militants in MEND and NDVF, with the Ijaws already assuming overlordship over every other ethnic nationality abandoning their camps, weapons, huge catches of arms, cash, and even their Egbesu shrines/ (of course our Ijaw brethren who apparently have been saying to the seer, do not see, and to the Prophet, do not prophesy to us right things, had to learn the hard way, that the Sovereign GOD will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to carved images-(Isa 30:8-10, Isa 42:8) The amnesty programme was to follow, this programme by my candid assessment remains epileptic, non-transparent and wasteful.

Recently, the Government of Delta state, on Saturday, August 27th rolled out the drums to celebrate 20th anniversary of the creation of this state, at the Grand Hotel Asaba, the state capital. One of the highlights of the celebrations was the honour of prominent citizens of the state.

The lopsided nature of the honours list however, portrays the organisers as either lacking adequate sense of history or deliberately mischievous. I wish to point out here, that Delta State has come a long way, first as part of Western region, then Mid-West, Bendel, and eventually Delta State.

As the MEND Aaron list comprised of people even outside the core Niger Delta region, so were people who made tremendous contributions and sacrifices to get us where we are today.

I am talking about HRH Oba Akenzua of Benin, HRH Oba M.A. Abutoh, JP, MFR, Orefe II, First Ovie of Oghara Kingdom, Chairman and Secretary General of House of Chiefs respectively, Mid-West, Pa, Anthony Enahoro, Samuel Jereton Mariere.

Mr.  Abutoh, a clergyman, wrote from Lagos.

Source: Vanguard, 18th December 2011.

 

‘How Abacha Killed Saro-Wiwa to Forestall N/Delta Struggle’

Alfred Ilenre

Alfred Ilenre, Secretary–General, Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organisation of Africa (EMIROAF), in this interview with KUNLE ODEREMI, sheds light on his fears for the country and  other issues. Excerpts.

WHat significant progress hasNigeria made in 12 years of civil rule?
The act of Nigeria moving from an era of a draconian military dictatorship to a civil rule is a worthy achievement. Outside that, there has been nothing significant worth commending except that corruption in high and low places have become a lifestyle. There has been a lot of limitations hindering the work of democratic transition in the country.

Could we have achieved more? How?
Certainly the civil administration in 1999 started with a lot of obstacles that have limited its achievements. The fact that the elected president, in 1999, was a former military head of state in the person of General Olusegun Obasanjo, a leader with an unchangeable mindset was a minus. When it is realised in the index of all the generals, who served as heads of government between 1945 and 2000, that only seven made some striking successes in governance. They are: President Tito of Yugoslavia, General De Gaule of France, General Park of South Korea, General Suharto of Indonesia, Gamel Nassir of Egypt, General Pinochet of Chile and Dwight Eisenhower of America. There is a caveat that they would have done better if they had not had military background. The overhanging image of military image over the present politicians is a big restriction on their performance.

Are there prospects of a progressive leap ahead?
The youths have started to question the validity of Nigeria and the basis of the present geo-political formation of the country. Is the historical fact that the colonialists forced the different tribes to live together enough to sustain the continued existence of the country? The Pro- National Conference Organisation (PRONACO) organised a peoples national conference led by the late elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro, supported by great names like Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Jadesola Akande, AIG Bappop, Idika Kalu, late Beko Ransome Kuti and others. It had actually presented a draft constitution worth looking into by the new corps of Nigerian politicians.

How would you analyse the rate of corruption among the ruling elite?
The level of corruption and corrupt practices since 1999 has been on the upward scale. It is sad. It would be correct to say that only children under age five, who do not have the need for much wealth, that are currently not benefitting from the ugly fall outs of corrupt practices in Nigeria. This is not the fault of the politicians. The system that allows it is to blame. Read the 1999 Constitution, every provision in the document tacitly gives room for corrupt practices.

What is responsible for this trend?
It is the system. The United Kingdom is often rated as the world’s most disciplined and stable democracy, the United States of America is said to be the most vibrant democracy while the Federation of India is portrayed as the world’s most robust democracy. If the operators of these countries were to be transplanted to operate the Nigerian system they will fail, because the system has tolerance for corruption and abuse office.

Aren’t the anti-graft agencies showing the capacity to deal with the situation?
The anti-corruption agencies were handicapped from the outset. For any country, however poor, to be able to confront corrupt practices, there must be a welfare package accessible to all citizens across board; provision of affordable education, health and housing facilities, full employment, aged and physically-challenged persons benefits, among others. There must be something available in the system for a citizen to say “I am entitled to this benefit because I am a Nigerian.” Give people the hope.

Where is the missing link and how can we get out of the quagmire?
The problem of Nigeria is caused by foundational errors. Remove these errors and Nigeria will bounce back in a matter of less than five years and become the attraction of the world. Nigeria agreed on the creation of 11 Regions before or immediately after Independence: Lagos, Yoruba and the Mid-West regions in the West; Igbo, Rivers and Calabar- Ogoja Regions from the East; and Sokoto, North Central, Kanuri, Hausa, Middle Belt Regions from the North. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) / National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) coalition government at the centre aborted this agreement. We have to draw up a new constitution that will return Nigeria to true federalism.

To what extent can we tackle the problems facing the country through constitutional framework?
The present constitution, which Chief Rotimi Williams said told a lie against itself, should be dropped and another constitution worked out to replace it. It is not to the credit of the present crops of politicians to rely on military decrees, edicts and barrack laws to administer a democratic government. When the military struck in 1966 they dismissed the constitution and ruled by decrees because dictators do not care about a written constitution. Why should civilian rulers depend on decrees?

What must be done to stem the current tide of insecurity in view of what some have described as the frightening state of the nation, and how did we get to this stage in the first place?
We all saw it coming. All the governments in Nigeria, since Independence, have been riddled by crises and violence. Since 1962, when the Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa regime unconstitutionally declared a state of emergency in Western Nigeria and jailed Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his colleagues based on false charges of treason, there has not been any peace in the country.

The Ironsi regime that overthrew the civilian regime of the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, witnessed the cruel, infantile and his unwarranted killing and those of two regional premiers and several government officials. The Gowon regime fought a needless civil war. The General Murtala/ Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Buhari, Babangida and the Abacha regimes were all riddled by blood-spilling conflicts. The country is a victim of wrong, geo-political structure where enemy tribes were forced together without first resolving their ethnic differences. The way out is a Sovereign National Conference to sort out the areas of contradiction among the federating tribes.

My fears are that Nigeria may become a failed project and the black race would have once again lost a good opportunity to build a powerful heterogeneous state out of vibrant, resourceful and self-confident ethnic groups to serve a counter-force to the re-colonisation drumbeat.

Why?
Because of the diverse ethnic composition of Nigeria, the nationalists decided to build a federal union made up of different nationalities as the federating units. The military people and their civilian collaborators changed all that to build a unitary state that presents noting, except fraud, violence, militarism and a congealing act of corruption.

Has the goal that motivated the Ogoni struggle been achieved?
The Ogoni struggle started in the 1990 with Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSOP), led by Ken Saro-wiwa. The main purpose was to draw the attention of the Nigerian government, the oil extraction companies and the international community to the extent of the damages to the Ogoni environment due to crude oil drilling. The report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) scientific assessment of the level of pollution in Ogoniland, which says the damage done to the Ogoni environment is much deeper than as portrayed by Ken Saro-Wiwa, is a vindication that the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) non-violent struggle is a worthy cause.

The Nigerian state, under the leadership of the General Sanni Abacha, saw Ken Saro – Wiwa as an irritant and decided to kill him so as not to infect the rest of the Niger-Delta. But the recent amnesty patched work by the Nigeria state to woo the Niger-Delta militants is a demonstration that Ken Saro–Wiwa fought a just cause.

To what extent have the authorities and the people appreciated the supreme price paid by Ken Saro–Wiwa and the MOSOP struggle?
At the announcement of the hanging of Ken Saro–Wiwa and the other eight Ogoni activists on November 10, 1995, the Commonwealth of Nations suspended Nigeria from its membership, the UN indicted the country, the European Union imposed economic sanctions and the world civil society ensured that Nigeria earned the tag of a pariah state. That showed the degree at which the world community was aggrieved at the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa. The fact that environmental rights activists all over the world condemned the act is a mark of honour and respect for the soul of Saro-wiwa. I am convinced, in my mind, that there will be a government in Nigeria, someday, that will honour November 10, as Saro-Wiwa day.

Ken Saro-wiwa was very clear about what he wanted and expressed them in books, newspaper publications, at conferences, workshops and talk shops at local and international levels. He visited as many as 76 countries before he commenced the Ogoni struggle. He was not a poor man. He appeared at the UN in 1992 to present the Ogoni case at both sessions of the UN Working Group on   Indigenous      Populations  and  the  UN    Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

He was in 1992 elected Vice-president of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, (UNPO), and became an Executive member of the governing council of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests the same year. He contributed to the making of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the establishment of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Ken Saro-Wiwa was convinced that Nigeria was wrongly constituted by the colonists. He did not like a situation, where enemy tribes were forced to live together, without their prior, free, clear and informed consent. He called for a people’s national conference where the ethnic nations will discuss and determine the basis of their co-existence. It was clear to him that Nigeria was only surviving on luck and sustained by violence. The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a clear sign, that like slavery, colonialism and military dictatorship the days of the unified Nations states are numbered.

Ken Saro-Wiwa paid the supreme sacrifice so that the people of Ogoni and the entire Niger- Delta may live. In Ken’s final words, “you can only kill the messenger, but you cannot kill the message. It lives on”.

What is the import of the resurgence of armed struggle in the North?
In the old North of Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, J.S Tarka, J.S Olawoyin, Ibrahim Imam and others, the talakawas had land holdings, however small, where they could plant and harvest both food and cash crops to earn a living that would enable them live a life of self-worth and hope. Today, most of the talakawas have lost their farms to the new rich who have taken over their land in the guise of large-scale farming and industrialisation. What we see daily are trailer-loads of able-bodied peasants from sahelian and savannah zones in the North dumped in cities at the heart of the tropical forest zones in Southern Nigeria environment they are not familiar with. When people are reduced to a level where they no longer have values for their own lives, you do not expect them to have value for the lives of others. The problems are more grave than they seem. What is happening in the North with the frequent street violence compounds the problems. Nigeria needs a cultural reconstruction to survive.
Source: Tribune, 19th November 2011.

 

Expert Tasks Niger Delta Youths On Community Development

Joy Olekanma

Port Harcourt — Youths in the Niger Delta region have been called upon to engage in projects that promote development in their various communities.

A development expert, Mr. Jude Kemona Onyia made this call while speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, shortly after he received an award as an icon of community development from the Rivers State Youth Federation (RSYF).

Onyia said engaging in development-oriented project in the communities would help in preparing the youths as future leaders in their various communities and in the nation as a whole.

He however, lamented on the involvement of youths in violence and criminal activities including kidnapping and armed robbery in recent times while appealing to youths in the region to embrace peace as it is the only panacea to development.

In his words, "What we ask for is development and for development to come to the Niger Delta, there must be peace.

Where there is war, there is hardly any development".

Onyia, who is also the assistant sales officer of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Port Harcourt Depot, urged every child in the region to imbibe peaceful virtues, no matter the condition they find their selves.

He said; "I implore every child or growing adult in Rivers State to imbibe peaceful virtues, no matter the condition you find yourself. We should continue to tour the path of peace because; there is nothing good more than the path of peace.

Source: Daily Champion, 11th November 2011.

 

Shell must pay $1 bn for Niger Delta clean-up – Group

LONDON  (AFP) – Oil giant Shell should commit $1 billion (700,000 euros) as a first step to clean up the Niger Delta following two devastating oil spills in 2008, rights groups said Thursday.

Shell and Niger Delta 2

Shell has accepted responsibility for the spills in the southern Nigerian state of Ogoniland that affected the Bodo fishing community and has agreed to pay compensation, which is currently being decided in the British courts.

But Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) accused Shell in a report of failing to act quickly enough to fix the damage and demanded the Anglo-Dutch group make the billion-dollar contribution.

“It is time this multi-billion-dollar company owns up, cleans up and pays up,” said Aster van Kregten, Nigeria researcher for London-based Amnesty International.

“Shell’s failure to promptly stop and clean up oil spills in Bodo has devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people.”

A spokesman for Shell’s Nigerian operations insisted discussions were underway with the government to establish a clean-up fund for the Niger Delta and said efforts had been made to clean up after the Bodo spills.

Ogoniland has been blighted by oil pollution for decades and a landmark UN environment agency report released in August said the region might require the world’s biggest ever clean-up.

The United Nations Environment Programme report called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion for a clean-up fund.

Thursday’s report however focused solely on the Bodo spills of 2008.

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), the Shell subsidiary which operates a joint venture in Nigeria in which the state oil company has a major stake, insisted its bid to clean up after the spills had been hampered.

“The reality is that our efforts to undertake (a) clean-up in Bodo have been hampered by the repeated impact of saboutage and bunkering spills,” the tapping of pipelines to steal oil, said an SPDC spokesman.

But van Kregten said: “This claim has been strongly disputed by the communities and NGOs who point out that the process of collecting data on oil spills is flawed.”

The SPDC spokesman said the subsidiary was already implementing many of the recommendations in the report.

“SPDC is committed to working with the Nigerian government and other stakeholders to improve the environment in the Niger Delta,” he said.
Source: Vanguard, 10th November 2011

 

Niger Delta Leaders Storm Presidency Over FUPRE

Omon-Julius Onabu

A high-powered delegation of leaders from oil producing communities in the Niger-Delta region will 'storm' the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to find ways of resolving the lingering crisis bedevilling the Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun (FUPRE), located near Warri in Delta State.

THISDAY gathered that the visit to President Goodluck Jonathan, which was expected to hold in Abuja this weekend, is in line with the on-going "positive engagements with the Presidency" by the regional leaders under the banner of Oil Mineral Producing Areas Stakeholders Forum (OMPSTAFOR).

The visit, THISDAY gathered, was in response to an earlier invitation from the Presidency that OMPSTAFOR should hold a discussion with the President on how to address the crisis bedevilling the university , which had allegedly made the fate of the future graduates of the institution uncertain.

THISDAY further gathered that the presidential invitation was prompted by a petition received from the stakeholders' forum, urging the president to intervene on the crisis in the interest of the innocent students and the entire oil-rich region.

A source close to OMPSTAFOR told THISDAY in Warri yesterday that the members of the forum, including concerned traditional rulers cum community leaders under the canopy of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) have been engaged in series of consultative meetings in apparently readiness for the visit to Abuja.

FUPRE has, in the last five years of its existence, been rocked by certain management problems that culminated in the dissolution of the university council by the Federal Government in October. However, the delegation was expected to include the Secretary of the OMPSTAFOR, Prince Maikpobi Okareme; HRM Ovie of Olomu Kingdom, Ogoni Oghoro Owhorode; HRM Oharisi III Ovie of Ughelli; HRM Bini Pere III Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom; Prof. Enuvie Akpokodje of the University of Port-Harcourt, Dr. Diamond Emuobor; Prof Joe Omo Udoyo, as well as Mr. O.J. Oghenejakpor. Others are Mr. Monday Whiskey; Chief A. Popo; Chief E. E. Ebimami; Mrs. Brisibe; Captain Joseph I. Timiyan; HRM Johnson Egbo Ewhiri II Ovie of Emede; HRM Udogri Ovie of Uzere, HRM S. Evah Pere of Egron, among others.

Among the associated predicaments with the alleged maladministration are those of accreditation of the courses or academic programmes of the university and "the unacceptable levels of development of infrastructure, including appropriate number of academic staff and lecturers."

The lack of accreditation of the existing academic programmes was, however, blamed on poor infrastructure base, including laboratories, technical workshops, functional library and relevant research facilities.

The fact that FUPRE is a technical and specialised institution demands a lot of things must be put in place in view of the accreditation of the various courses, paramount among which are academic accreditation, even an interim, would be impossible without the necessary infrastructure being put in place, the source said.

During one of such meetings reportedly held on Tuesday at Effurun, the group reportedly reviewed the activities and correspondence with the Federal Government, especially through the Federal Ministry of Education, including several recommendations to the government on the way out of the lingering management challenges in FUPRE. The highpoint of the recommendations, contained in the letter to the honourable minister dated 18 September, this year was the call on Mr. President to declare as illegal, null and void the activities of members of the dissolved council of the university particularly after the Federal Government had duly dissolved the council.

The OMPSTAFOR delegation has also reportedly resolved to demand that the NNDC should take over the construction of access roads within the FUPRE campus while special funds should made available in order to fast-track development of infrastructure in he university.

Nonetheless, the dissolution of the Governing Council of FUPRE was consequent upon the recommendations contained in the letter sent to the Minster of Education dated September 18, by the forum. Aside from the main focus of the proposed visit to the presidential villa this weekend, the group if expected to dialogue with Mr. President on a number of other relevant issues such as suggestion for the "taking over of the state Polytechnic, Ozoro, Delta, established in 1981 by the then Bendel government of late Prof Ambrose Alli."
Source: This Day, 10th November 2011

 

Why Shell is leaving Delta State, Of All Places

TOYIN AKINOSHO

Shell Nigeria has almost sold off its entire stakes in 10 acreages in the country since 2008.

The first two sold were the company’s non-operated interests  in the country’s extensive deepwater terrain.

The remaining eight acreages - located on land and in swamp-and all of which Shell held operating interests, are domiciled in the Delta State of Nigeria.

This is curious, especially if you’re locked on the theory that Shell is selling these properties because they are problematic. And we know that the key problem, in the Niger Delta Basin, is militancy.

Shell Nigeria’s acreage positions span four states of the Federal Republic; Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta.

So, why would Shell choose to divest from Delta State, rather than, say, Bayelsa state? And only Delta state for that matter?.

The company is leaving these acreages as a result of  “business exigency”, but how come that all the eight onshore  leases the company is walking away from are all contiguous, around the same location?

Shell has said that the sale of these eight, out of a total of 35 operated acreages on the Nigerian shelf, does not mean it is exiting Nigeria entirely. These eight tracts are around 25% of the total number of Shell’s 31 leases under Joint Venture with TOTAL, Agip and the state hydrocarbon company NNPC. (The remaining  four(4) tracts are under Production Sharing Contracts).

By any standard, this is quite a large number. But it could be worthwhile to take a look at what the Anglo Dutch major and its European co-travellers, are divesting from.

The Oil Mining Leases(OMLs) 4 38 and 41, which were sold to Seplat Petroleum in January 2010, have in them, such iconic producing fields as Sapele and Oben. The latter, with 937Billion cubic feet of gas, lies at the western end of the much reported OB-OB (Oben-Obrikom) gas pipeline, under consideration for construction, which will link the more industrialized, Western Nigerian gas market to the gas rich Eastern Nigeria.

The OML 34, being sold to the Niger Delta E&P, hosts the storied Utorogu Gas  Plant, which is at the heart of Shell’s claim to being the major gas supplier to the country’s thermal electricity generating facilities.

The Odidi Gas Plant, built with over $300Million and commissioned less than 12 years ago, is located in OML 42, one of the last four acreages on the auction block.

Those who say: “Why Delta State?”,  need a bit of refresher course in recent Nigerian history. The acreages in Delta State were the site of the most serious damage to Shell operated facilities in the last 15 years. Inter ethnic clashes between Ijaw and the Itshekiri between 1997 and 2000 created much cloudier air of uncertainty in the region than the Ogoni face off with the Nigerian authorities, in the early to mid 90s. Damages were inflicted heavily especially on OML 42, which used to be an economically robust acreage; Facilities constructed to extract oil from promising fields like Egwa, Odidi and Ajuju were heavily destroyed in the low intensity inter ethnic wars.  Jones Creek, the site of Nigeria’s first horizontal drilling, was equally battered. Though the field itself had dwindled in production, there were a number of new projects lined up around it, results of new discoveries in the neighbourhood. The Odidi Gas Plant was barely commissioned when it was damaged by marauding throng of angry youth claiming territory. The Movement For Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which announced itself several years later, in 2006, had a lot of learning from this inter ethnic war which shook the foundations of Nigerian Democracy.

Even so, Shell’s  assets in Delta state suffered more from the historic bomb blasts of pipelines with which MEND announced itself in 2006. The Trans Forcados Pipeline was hit in three places, including Patani and the mouth of the Forcados River, all in Delta State. This took out 300,000Barrels Of Oil Per Day BOPD-much more than the entire production of Gabon-for at least 18 months. While Shell worked to fix the line, residents along the route helped themselves to crude by doing more damage, cutting the line with hacksaws.

Still there were acreages on sale that are not carrying the scars of battle. What Shell is doing, largely, is portfolio restructuring. The major economic benefit for the company and its partners  in places like Oben, Ugheli and Utorogu would have been the gas they were supplying to power plants. The fact that payment by the power utility PHCN weren’t quite forthcoming rendered the acreages less and less attractive. And the difficulty in receiving payment are compounded by bureaucratic headaches that agencies like the NNPC and the Power Holding Company create.

One company who has done this sort of portfolio restructuring, albeit at a much lower scale, is TOTAL . 10 years ago, TOTAL quit OML 57 in the Niger Delta’s western swamp after the 2003 inter ethnic battle . Two years earlier it had given up OML 59. But then TOTAL commenced a round of farm -ins, especially in acreages belonging to local firms after then.  The company is also acquiring properties around what it considers its heartland: the south east offshore Niger Delta. This is why it is involved with Conoil in OPL 257 and it has returned to OPL 223. It has also bought  into the Nigeria/Sao Tome Joint Development Zone.

The trickster god of Geology is also a key culprit in forcing Shell out of Delta state. In at least two of those acreages the quality of crude has been a challenge. Aferolo, the geologic belt stretching from Kokori in OML 30 (sold to Elcrest)to Ogini field(sold to Afren) is all filled with heavy crude with a light oil rim. Some of these fields have high in- place volume, but the real work is to lift the crude.

Shell is still holding the cards in these sales in its favour. Even after receiving close to $2billion, it will still be some kind of landlord, standing at the crude evacuation gate. Crude handling tariff is a crucial part of an operator’s economics. None of the companies which have bought the acreages is going to build a crude handling facility anytime soon. Everybody signs a crude handling agreement. They send their crudes to Forcados, Nigeria’s flagship terminal in OML 41. See? The grand plan is not to leave.

Mutiu Sunmonu, CEO of Shell companies in Nigeria may be right: “We are consolidating to strengthen our current and future stand in Nigeria “
Source: Business Daily, 27th October 2011.

 

FG approved compensation for Asaba Genocide

White papers published after the military government inquiry on the Asaba Genocide which occurred during the Nigerian civil war, approved the payment of full compensatory damages to the innocent victims and families of the massacre, it has been learnt.

Making the revelations while speaking to Daily Champion, Military Historian and Human Rights Crusader, Emma Okocha, said: "Our work of over two decades have been very fulfilling; as we have uncarpeted the hidden Asaba horrific story, pushing the genocide from the kitchen whispers of the traumatic to the global stage, where Asaba, Ishiagu and Igbodo have taken their bloody places in the Genocide map of the world".

He said all the groups in Nigeria are ultimately receiving due compensation for all the adversities and crimes visited on them by the federal government and its agencies committed both in peace times and others which occurred during the civil war.

Okocha who wondered why the federal government which has rewarded the Yorubas after the June 12, 1993 protests; the Ijaws since the Kiama Declaration, has forgotten its own White Paper on Asaba.

Authenticating his revelations Okocha referred to the open statement credited to the civilian Minister of Information, Chief T.O .S Benson who on the launching of Murtala Mohammed Book before the Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha in 1997, surprised the whole audience with the details of the White Paper and the commander’s role while he was in Asaba.

He said: "I think it is about time that the federal government should pay the Anioma and Asaba people the indemnity that they ought to have. It could be monetary, it could be apologies, and it could be revisiting the Whitepapers that were released after the enquiry set up in 1969 which admitted the massacre in Asaba by the Federal troops.

"Of course, papers were released by government to pay indemnity for these people but because the federal government was at war and there was no oil boom at the time, they did not pay. This is the time to do the right thing and give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. If the Ijaw people can take over the whole delta by whatever demand they have made, it is about time for President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to pay Asaba a due compensation."

Okocha who said his concern was basically to uncover the genocide and prove to the world that genocide indeed took place in Asaba, said it has been proved beyond any doubt that the 1967 massacre at Ogbosowa Market square was intended to wipe out the people of Asaba and Anioma.
Source:  Daily Champion, 28th October 2011.

 

 

Niger Delta killings: Shell has questions to answer —Reps

CHUKWU DAVID, Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) to invite Shell Development Company Ltd to explain their alleged involvement in the series of killings and clashes in some Niger Delta communities, particularly Rumuekpe in Rivers State.

The decision followed a motion moved by Hon. Andrew Uchendu, in which he alleged that the Shell Development Company Ltd was instrumental to several communal clashes in the oil rich Niger Delta region, resulting in the loss over sixty innocent lives.

According to Hon. Uchendu, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and a London-based oil and Gas Watchdog, in their recent publication indicted Shell Development Company of directly funding rival groups in the Niger Delta over the years, leading to the death of about 60 persons and destruction of communities in the region.

But in reacting against the motion, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju representing Warri North/South/West Federal Constituency of Delta State insisted that the oil companies operating in the region were not responsible for the frequent communal clashes in the area.

He rather accused the leaders of the Niger Delta communities, whom according to him, were scrambling to present themselves as landlords to the multi-nationals of sponsoring the crisis in order to achieve their selfish interest.

The motion, however, received the overwhelming support of members and they mandated the relevant Committee of the House to make inquiry into the allegations and report to the House further action.

Similarly, the House referred a motion on "Dearth of Quality Customer Service Delivery and Protection in Nigeria" to the Joint Committee on Commerce and Governmental Affairs to conduct an investigation on the institutional and organisational lapses that have led to the poor quality of service delivery in the country.

Presenting the motion to the House, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh noted with dismay that the poor quality of service delivery in public institutions in Nigeria had crept into the private sector and indeed all the sectors of the economy.

He pointed out that the SERVICOM programme which was launched by the Federal Government in 2005 was designed to address obvious gaps in services delivery using some selected sectors of the economy.

Eyiboh further observed that section 2 (i) of the Consumer Protection Council Act, empowered the Council to ensure that consumer interest received due consideration and provide redress for obnoxious practices or the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, firms, trade association or individuals.

The legislator expressed concern that in spite of the mandate of the Consumer Protection Council and that of other consumer watchdogs in the country such as the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria ( SON) etc, service delivery has remained poor in the country.

He therefore, added to his prayer that the investigation should identify factors militating against the effective performance of consumer watchdogs in all sectors of Nigerian economy and make appropriate recommendations to the House within four weeks.

Another motion sponsored by Hon. Ezenwa Onyewuchi on the "Need to Investigate the Influx of Substandard Goods in Nigeria also successfully received the approval of the House.

Consequently, the House referred the motion to the Committee on Commerce, which will invite the Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria to explain the continued influx of sub-standard goods into the country.

The House further mandated the Committee on Commerce to work with Standards Organisation of Nigeria and ensure that the influx of sub-standard goods was totally stopped in the country.

Moreover, the House of Representatives equally mandated its Committees on Communications, Labour, Local Content and Interior to investigate the current crisis between Airtel Nigerian Ltd and its staff and report to the House within two weeks.

The resolution was sequel to a motion moved by Hon. Yusuf Tajudeen under matter of urgent public importance, drawing the attention of the House to the on-going crisis in the domain of the GSM service provider, Airtel over alleged termination of the appointments of about 3000 Nigerian workers at the company.

The sponsor of the motion implored the House to call on Airtel operators to revert to status quo pending the investigation of the House, so that the affected employees would not be made to face unwarranted trauma.

It would be recalled that over three thousand Nigerians working for the Airtel GSM provider have been protesting their alleged lay off by the company without due process.
Source: Daily Champion, 6th October 2011.

 

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S’South leaders want laws to protect oil areas

FROM LEMMY UGHEGBE, AZIMAZI JIMOH MOMOH, TERHEMBA DAKA (ABUJA) AND CHIDO OKAFOR (WARRI

Reps probe Shell’s alleged role in violence

PENGASSAN, NUPENG declare strike

LEADERS of the Niger Delta oil communities yesterday decried what they described as the neglect of their areas by oil companies.

The leaders, who spoke under the auspices of the South-South Elders and Leaders Forum, therefore sought laws to protect the areas.

They specifically accused Chevron of being insensitive to the plight of the people of the oil-producing areas where it conducts its business.

Also, oil giant, Shell Development Company Limited is to face the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) investigative panel to explain its involvement in the series of killings, and clashes in the Niger Delta particularly in Rumuekpe in Rivers State.

This came after a report recently also indicted the Anglo-Dutch company for fuelling killings in the Niger Delta.

And apparently miffed by the rising insecurity, especially kidnapping in the Niger Delta region, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have declared a three-day warning strike beginning from October 10 to 12, 2011.

Most of the victims of the kidnap saga especially in Delta and Edo States have been members of the bodies.

The South-South leaders cited the recent development in the Ugborodo community in Warri, Delta State, as reflective of the attitude of Chevron across the Niger Delta communities, saying it was dehumanizing and unacceptable.

In a statement signed by the leader of the forum, former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the group said: “We have observed for some time now, the dismay, anger, non-chalant and insensitive attitude of Chevron over the demonstration of the Ugborodo community in the past three days, particularly against the neglect, discrimination, dehumanization, marginalization and the devastating erosion of their area by Chevron as a result of the oil exploration, which has also seriously affected the ecosystem.   What is happening to Ugborodo community today is being repeated all over the Niger Delta by the operations of all the other oil companies.”

Clark lamented that “these oil companies believed that their partnership with the Federal Government has given them a licence to destroy and neglect the welfare of the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, dehumanize, marginalize and discriminate against the people to the extent of reducing them to mere existence.”

He noted: “For instance, minor contracts meant for the host communities have been given to contractors who operate outside the oil host communities and this is part of the agitations of the Ugborodo community.”

According to him,  while there is neither drinking water nor electricity in Ugborodo, Chevron has built a small modern city which is comparable to any small town in Nigeria for its own workers with well built hospitals, 24 hours electricity, modern drinking water, among other facilities.

Clark urged the Federal Government to facilitate the passage of bills that promote and protect the interest of oil-producing areas in the country, lamenting that the Petroleum Industry Bill which is one of such bills  had suffered to many setbacks.

A report published on Monday by London-based oil and gas industry watchdog, Platform, allegedly  accused Shell of escalating armed conflicts in the Niger Delta  region resulting in the killing of about 60 persons.

The Platform said among other charges, that Shell paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and contract deals to feuding militant groups as well as government security agents that attacked, and killed many in the region.

The allegations came barely a month after a United Nations-sponsored study accused Shell of being responsible for serious environmental damage of the Ogoni area of the Niger Delta.

The Aminu Waziri Tambuwal-led House of Representatives yesterday said the allegations were “too weighty to be overlooked” for a region that has witnessed violence in recent years, resulting in low government oil earnings.

Titled: “Alleged funding of killings and clashes in the Niger Delta by Shell Development Company” and  sponsored by Andrew Uchendu, the House expressed worry that Shell has often been accused of doing little to develop the communities it  has operated in and that the company has often times been accused of directly funding rival groups in those areas.

Consequently, the parliament mandated its Petroleum Committee to get the oil company to explain its role before a decision is taken by the house on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police have been urged to immediately track down an Enugu-based businessman, Alexander Ndubuisi who was alleged to have set his pregnant wife and two children ablaze.

In a statement signed by Representative Ogbuefi Ozombachi, (PDP, Enugu State), he expressed disappointment that Ndubuisi had been allowed to escape despite the grievous nature of the alleged crime.

He said: “It is indeed sad that a man in his right senses set his pregnant wife and two children  on fire. There could be more to the incident than we have read in the reports available. The police should ensure that the fleeing Alexander is arrested and made to face the law. He should not go unpunished.”

It was reported that Ndubuisi set his pregnant wife and two children ablaze last Saturday in his shop in Enugu.
Source:
The Guardian, 6th October 2011.

 

N’Assembly to monitor Ogoni oil spill clean-up

FROM KELVIN EBIRI (PORT HARCOURT) AND TERHEMBA DAKA (ABUJA)

Emeka Ihedioha, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives

DEPUTY Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, has said the Legislature will monitor the restoration of the devastated environment of Ogoniland and other communities affected by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The lawmaker spoke as the Ogonis called on the Federal Government to immediately implement the key recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, which outlined the disastrous effects of oil pollution in Ogoniland.

Ihedioha, while acknowledging the submission of the UNEP report on the Ogoni oil spill as a first step in redressing the despoliation of affected communities, cautioned against attempts to pass the buck by concerned corporate operators stating that “all those involved must take full responsibility for the consequences of exploration activities as it is the case in developed countries where some of them are headquartered.”

Recalling the rapid global response, which greeted the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the United States last year, Ihedioha expressed hope that the Federal Government would waste no time in driving an implementation process that would address the grave environmental issues raised in Ogoniland and other areas of the Niger Delta.

The deputy speaker expressed the unwavering commitment and focused determination of the House as representatives of the people of Nigeria, to ensure that the principles of international best practices and values of good corporate governance are brought to bear in the oil and gas industry in the overall interest of host communities and the larger Nigerian nation.

“In this regard, the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will be given expeditious attention when the House resumes from its recess, among other results-driven measures that would be taken to ensure that corporate actors and relevant government departments and agencies in the oil and gas industry do not shirk in their responsibilities to reclaim and protect the environment in which they operate and as well as improve the lives and living conditions of the inhabitants,” he said.

The Ogonis have set up a technical committee to do a detailed analysis and review of the UNEP report with a view to highlighting obvious gaps, especially the public health implications, and making recommendations of possible steps to be taken by the Ogoni people, but not limited to legal action in appropriate jurisdictions.

The decision was reached at a special Ogoni congress called

under the aegis of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People

(MOSOP) to review recent developments in their struggle for justice, especially the developments in the case brought by the Bodo Community in the United Kingdom Courts against Shell, as well as the UNEP report of the environmental assessment of the area.

The UNEP report, which was submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan penultimate Thursday, revealed large scale of contamination of drinking water, which has exposed communities to serious health risks. For instance, at Nisisioken Ogale, the report disclosed that families are drinking water from wells that are contaminated with benzene - a known carcinogen - at levels over 900 times above World Health Organisation guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline.

In a statement, which was endorsed by the MOSOP President, Ledum Mitee, the congress which was attended by over 5,000 Ogoni people, noted that the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico was cleaned within a record time and not within 20 to 30 years as recommended in the case of Ogoni by UNEP.
Source: The Guardian, 15
th
August 2011.

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We ‘ll monitor clean-up of Ogoni oil spills – Ihedioha

BY EMMA OVUAKPORIE
ABUJA— Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha has said the legislature will play an effective oversight function to monitor the restoration of the devastated environment of Ogoni land and other communities affected by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Niger Delta 1

While acknowledging the submission of the report of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, on the Ogoni Oil Spill as a first step in redressing the despoliation of affected communities, the Deputy Speaker cautioned against attempts to pass the buck by concerned corporate operators.

He explained that “all those involved must take full responsibility for the consequences of exploration activities as it is the case in developed countries where some of them are headquartered.”

Recalling the rapid global response which greeted the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the United States of America last year, Ihedioha expressed hope that the Federal Government would waste no time in driving an implementation process that would address the grave environmental issues raised in Ogoni land and other areas of the Niger Delta.

The Deputy Speaker expressed the unwavering commitment and focused determination of the House as representatives of the people of Nigeria, to ensure that the principles of international best practices and values of good corporate governance are brought to bear in the oil and gas industry in the overall interest of host communities and the larger Nigerian nation.

“In this regard, the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, will be given expeditious attention when the House resumes from its recess, among other results-driven measures, that would be taken to ensure that corporate actors and relevant government departments and agencies in the oil and gas industry do not shirk their responsibilities to reclaim and protect the environment in which they operate and as well as improve the lives and living conditions of the inhabitants”.
Source: Vanguard, 15
th
August 2011.

 

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Ex-militants Deported
By Dele Anofi

Eight ex-militants sent abroad for training have been ordered deported by the Federal Government.

Ex-militants

Accused of breaching ethical contract are: Igoli Chinese, Kingdom Weri, Omieh Jonathan, Orunnisiede Brinumugha, Otto Agbuwatse, Ogosi Ekankumor, Suama Agbaboh and Thursday Sinclair.

They are expected back from Sri Lanka this week.

They will lose all the rights enjoyed as pardoned ex-militants, in addition to possible prosecution on their return.

No fewer than 16 ex-militants have been deported from the United States, Ghana and South Africa on account of indiscipline and poor conduct.

Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Mr. Kingsley Kuku said the government would not tolerate indiscipline or acts capable of bringing Nigeria’s name into disrepute by those regarded as its ambassadors.

Since its proclamation in October, 2009 by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, 26, 358 youths have been documented for amnesty; 16,000 have gone through demobilisation in Obubra camp, in addition to undergoing various skill acquisition programmes in Nigeria and overseas.

A statement by the Head, Media and Communication, Amnesty Office, Mr. Henry Ugbolue, yesterday said:

“Determined to stamp out indiscipline among trainees currently enrolled in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and the Chief Executive Officer of the Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, has approved the repatriation from Sri Lanka back to Nigeria of eight trainees.

“The eight trainees who have serially breached the Code of Conduct for the Programme’s trainees are Igoli Chinese, Kingdom Weri, Omieh Jonathan, Orunnisiede Brinumugha, Otto Agbuwatse, Ogosi Ekankumor, and Suama Agbaboh and Thursday Sinclair

“The eight trainees were expelled from a vocational training centre in Sri Lanka for offences ranging from fighting to wilful destruction of training equipment.

“The eight trainees who travelled out to Topher Zhang Maritime Vocational Centre Sri Lanka a month ago, to commence vocational training in either undersea welding or boat building are due back in the country this week and shall be immediately handed over to the State Security Services (SSS) for proper profiling and possible prosecution.

“Hon. Kuku has instructed the Accounts Department of the Amnesty Office to stop forthwith the remittances of monthly stipends to the accounts of the affected trainees.

“The Federal Government, the Special Adviser added, will no longer condone serial cases of indiscipline among Amnesty Programme’s trainees posted to vocational or skills acquisition centres both within the country and abroad.

“Indeed Hon. Kuku says the Amnesty Office is considering outright expulsion of unruly trainees from the Programme”.
Source: The Nation, 15
th
August 2011.

 

 

Pollution or No Pollution, Oil Production Goes on in Ogoni

By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and    Onwuka Nzeshi

Irrespective of a damning United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report which says it would take 30 years and $1 billion to clean up the mess in Ogoniland, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) will soon restart production on the 30 Shell oil wells in the community.

Oil Spill

A senior source at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told THISDAY at the weekend that NPDC had not shelved its plan to commence production on the wells abandoned by Shell in the wake of the crisis that greeted the hanging of former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight of his kinsmen by the then military administration.

He said the re-entry plan was at an advanced stage and the NPDC would ensure that various stakeholders were carried along in whatever decision that would be reached at the end of the day.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs at the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, also confirmed in a telephone chat Sunday that the re-entry plan was on course.

He said NPDC would begin production from the oil wells after the necessary arrangements had been put in pace.
“The re-entry plan is in progress. We have not shelved the idea because of the UNEP report. The NPDC will take over the operatorship of those oil blocks, but with a different philosophy. The philosophy will be that of unity, oneness and respect for the host community,” Ajuonuma said, adding that the corporation would have to appeal to the Ogoni people that producing oil in their community would improve their lot.

The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the corporation, Mr. Austen Oniwon, had in January disclosed that NPDC would soon commence oil production from the abandoned wells in line with NNPC’s mandate to produce 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2015. 

He said to achieve the set mandate, the NPDC had grown its asset base three-fold preparatory to becoming a big player in the upstream sector, while the enabling environment had been provided by the Federal Government.
The news of the planned re-entry had elicited reactions from the Ogoni people who vowed to resist any attempt by NPDC, Shell or any company for that matter to restart oil exploration in the area.

The Ogoni had also criticised the report that Shell and the NPDC, its appointed operator, were close to signing an agreement on the operatorship of the fields without the consent or approval of their people.
A prominent Ogoni leader, Mr. Ledum Mitee, had told THISDAY that the Federal Government was yet to contact the Ogoni people on NPDC’s plan to restart oil production in their area.

He said any company that would be allowed to explore oil in Ogoniland must be acceptable by the people of Ogoni, pointing out that government should first consult the Ogonis on whoever would take over the operatorship of those oil blocks.

"I have not been contacted about the plan by the NPDC to begin production, although the government was considering appointing it the new operator. Our position as always is that Shell must be replaced. So it is important that government first discusses whoever will be coming with us. I should expect government to contact us for discussion first and for us to know who is coming, what the company stands for and what they are bringing to the table. We don't want Shell or something like Shell or a company that will work for Shell,” Mitee said, adding: "The people of Ogoni should know who the company is, what the company stands for and what it is putting on the table, before being allowed to operate in their area.”

The Federal Government had on June 4, 2008, announced that oil fields abandoned by Shell in Ogoniland would be handed over to another operator.

Government reasoned that since there was a total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell, the best thing was to allow an operator acceptable to them (Ogonis) to take over exploration activities in the area.

The pronouncement had pitted Shell against the Federal Government, with the oil giant insisting that it would not hands off those blocks to any operator other than a Joint Venture partner. Shell had faulted government’s decision and resisted initial plans to hand over the control of the Nigerian oil fields to Chinese oil companies.

However, the appointment of NPDC as the new operator had received the commendation of Shell, which said it would continue to be a shareholder in the Ogoniland operations even though NPDC would become the operator.

UNEP recently indicted Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in a report that showed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta had caused serious environmental contamination and threat to human lives in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

The landmark report set out scientific evidence for the first time of devastating pollution in Ogoniland, part of the country's main oil-producing Niger Delta region, where Shell operated. It said the pollution might require the world's biggest ever clean-up, while detailing urgent health risks, especially badly contaminated drinking water. Shell faced criticism from UNEP, which said: “Control and maintenance of oil field infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate.”

The SPDC’s Managing Director, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, however pledged that the oil giant would take "seriously" the UN study on unprecedented pollution, but reiterated that the company was not to blame for most of the spills.

"It's important for me to emphasise that we are taking the UNEP report very seriously," Mutiu Sunmonu told AFP in an interview after the report was released. "We are looking at it in greater detail. We are taking a comb through the report to see exactly what necessary follow-up actions will be required of SPDC."

The House of Representatives over the weekend said it would take very “keen interest” in the proposed clean-up lands as well as the restoration of all other communities affected by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly said it would put in place effective oversight mechanisms to monitor the restoration of the devastated lands and waters and provide sustainable legislative solutions to guard against a reoccurrence of the phenomenon.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who disclosed this, stated that the 7th session of the House would intensify the current efforts to re-enlist the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and ensure the passage of the legislation as soon as possible. 

He said the House would remain committed and unwavering in its determination to ensure that the principles of good governance, corporate social responsibility and international best practices were brought to bear in the oil and gas industry in the overall interest of oil-bearing communities and Nigeria at large.

“The passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill will be given expeditious attention when the House resumes from its recess, among other result-driven measures that would be taken to ensure that corporate actors and relevant government departments and agencies in the oil and gas industry do not shirk their responsibilities to reclaim and protect the environment in which they operate and as well as improve the lives and living conditions of the inhabitants,” he said.

Ihedioha described the submission of the UNEP report to the Federal Government as the first step in redressing the despoliation of affected communities in the oil rich Niger Delta.  

He however warned against the current attempts by operators and stakeholders in the petroleum sector to pass the buck rather than taking responsibility for their actions and inactions that resulted in the devastation of the environment.
Ihedioha said  all those involved must take full responsibility for the consequences of oil exploration and production activities as it is the case in developed countries where some of them also operate.

He recalled the rapid global response which greeted the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, United States of America last year and expressed hope that the Federal Government would waste no time in driving an implementation process that would address the grave environmental issues raised in the UNEP report on Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta.
Source: This Day, 15th August 2011.

 

Amnesty: Nigeria, EU to partner on Niger Delta

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South South
There was indication, last week, that some Nigerian government officials were beginning to think on collaborating with The Netherlands and other European countries , particularly in the area of amnesty programme for ex-militants.

Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Kingsley Kuku, is spearheading the move in partnership with a Nigerian-based organization in The Netherlands, Hope for Niger-Delta Campaign, HNDC, founded by Comrade Sunny Ofehe and Ben Television, United Kingdom, as it affects the amnesty programme for ex-militants.

The Special Adviser is actually going on the European mission with his heads high, as the amnesty programme, which was initially taken with a pinch of salt by some persons, ispositively impacting on the ex-militants. One of the biggestcritics of the amnesty programme, leader of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who made no pretence about his not accepting the Federal Government amnesty, admitted, last week, in Lagos, that the academic and skill acquisition training for ex-militants by the Presidency, were the best things to happen in the region in recent times.

He spoke against the backdrop of training and provision of jobs to 40 former militants after their training in Nigeria and South Africa, saying, he was enthralled by the willingness of ex-agitators to participate in the programme. His words, “I thank God, not because of the amnesty progamme but thedesire of the youths to learn.”

Drumming int’l support

Head, Media and Communcation, Presidential Amnesty Committee Office, Abuja, Mr. Henry Ugbolue, told Saturday Vanguard, “The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku will use the visit to secure more practical support from the international community for the Niger Delta Amnesty programme. Just like he did recently at Chatham House, London, Hon. Kuku will be urging EU countries, particularly the UK, to issue visas to ex-agitators to enable them travel to these countries where schools and vocational training centres have been secured for them by the Amnesty Office’s training partners”.

According to him, “The Amnesty Office emphasizes offshore training for programme’s beneficiaries because of the glaring lack of capacity in local training centres to speedily offer vocational training to the teeming population of Niger Delta ex-agitators (26,358 in all) enrolled in the Amnesty Programme. Also, the United Nations (UN) expects all DDR programmes to take former combatants away from their natural habitats for transformation and reintegration purposes. The Amnesty Office has since inception been complying strictly with this UN code.Hon. Kuku remains exceedingly grateful to countries that have consistently issued visas to Amnesty Programme’s trainees, particularly the United States of America, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, India, Poland and the United Arabs Emirate (Dubai). He is urging EU countries especially the UK to give similar support to the Amnesty Programme”.

“In Netherlands, Hon. Kuku is generally expected to drum up support for the Amnesty Programme in the following areas: assistance in placement of ex-agitators in education and vocational training and internship for work experience; assistance in funding and provision of machinery, equipmentand personnel to support entrepreneurial initiatives of the programme participants and the development of technology , business and agriculture villages; technical assistance in the community reintegration process and conflict resolution capacity building and justice issues; and provide ideas and information on best practice/ lessons learned from other DDR programmes.

His words, “The international community should prevail on oil and gas multinational corporations who have operations in the Niger Delta, to support the Federal Government efforts and initiatives to develop the Niger Delta region through economic empowerment and job creation for the people and well as facilitate immigration processes; particularly expedite travelling visa issuance for the participants that may be posted to education and vocational training centers in EU countries”. 

Success/challenges of amnesty programme

Founder and president of HNDC, Comrade Ofehe in on online statement on the proposed visit said, “As part of HNDC’s determination to ensure the success of the ongoing Amnesty programme by the Nigeria government, HNDC in collaboration with BEN television UK, will be hosting Kuku in The Hague, The Netherlands and the European Union Headquarters’ in Brussels, Belgium.

“The five- day official visit will commence on Monday 19th September 2011 and end on Friday 23rd September 2011. In The Netherlands, the Presidential Adviser is expected to meet with senior Dutch government officials, representatives of civil society groups, corporate institutions, experts/consultants and a tour of strategic places of interest.

“An International Conference entitled, “Success and Challenges of Nigerian Government Amnesty Programme; Role of International Community” will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in The Hague on Tuesday 20th September 2011. In Brussels at the European Union Headquarters’, the Presidential Adviser will meet with senior European Union officials at the EU Parliament, the EU Commission and the EU Council”, he added.

Ofehe stated, “The visit will be rounded up with an International Press Conference in The Hague where he is expected to address the Press Corp and take questions relating to the Amnesty program in the Niger Delta region”, adding, “HNDC is confident that such an international engagement has become inevitable in the face of the mounting challenges of the program on the Nigeria government and the need to involve the international community inter alia the European Union in supporting the program”. 

What should occupy Kuku in Europe

With gas as the potential highest revenue earner in the world, what should be uppermost in the mind of the Special Adviser during his Europe trip should not just be how be improvement of amnesty programme for ex-militants alone, but the knowledge of how Nigeria can maximize its gas potentials. So far, the national gas master plan, has kick started with the approval for the establishment of gas central processing facilities in Delta, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom with some India and Saudi Arabia investors in Delta state recently for inspection of sites for the construction of 16 billion dollars petrochemical and fertilizer plants.

Borrowing a leaf

The story is told of Nigeria, which by 2011, is still trying to jump-start its gas industry, but 38 years ago, 1963 to be precise, the Dutch had the biggest public–private partnership to date, the N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie, between Esso (now ExxonMobil), Royal Dutch Shell and the Dutch government, which since 2005 is 100 per cent state owned. Since then, Holland’s destiny has been inextricably linked to the oil and gas industry. But Nigeria’s partnership with oil companies has always been skewed against the people.

Though, The Netherlands’s luck in the gas business , according to a research report, came at a price for the national economy, the revenues generated from the gas business were used by successive governments as current income, flooding public finances, overvaluing the national currency, and making exports in guilders far too expensive up until the emergence of the Euro in 2000. This vicious circle came to be known as the “Dutch Disease”. Many national manufacturing industries struggled to export while public investments and resources were lost in bureaucracy.

Things have changed for the better in the past decade, says the Minister of Economic Affairs, Maria Van der Hoeven, with revenues being used wisely for future prosperity. “In the last twenty years a considerable proportion of the oil and gas revenues have been used for investments to strengthen our economic position in the long term. Infrastructure projects were for a long time a top priority, but the last cabinet placed innovation and education as a national priority,” she explains. Van Mannekes is even more specific: “Today, about 5 per cent of the Dutch GDP comes from the revenues of the gas industry and the state profit share goes into funds partially for infrastructure development, roads, rails, and major R&D activities”. That is the magic.

On the 50th anniversary of the Groningen gas field the Netherlands has a lot to celebrate. Their expertise in the oil and gas business combined with the country’s strategic location at the door to Europe’s main markets have made the Netherlands a leader in oil and chemical refinery, as well as cutting–edge areas such as underground gas storage and seismic studies.

True to their merchant nature, the Dutch have been very good at selling not just their gas, oil and derivatives, but also their technology.

According to Mr. Hans de Boer, Managing Director of IRO, the Association of Dutch Suppliers in the Oil and Gas Industry, the Dutch industry is successfully exporting equipment as well as their skill in designing, constructing and operating offshore equipment for the wider natural gas value chain. “This is why IRO has a strong focus on exporting our members’ expertise to other markets worldwide. The upstream supply industry in the Netherlands had an estimated annual turnover of US$ 7 billion for 2009, of which 70 per cent is export–related”, he says.

All of this would not have been possible without the Port of Rotterdam. Known as the “Energy port of Europe”, it serves as a safe harbor for Western Europe’s refinery and maritime industries as they struggle to keep costs to a minimum. As Mr. Rob Nijst, Managing Director of VTTI, puts it, “Refineries in the hinterland are struggling with the increased competition from new refineries being built in the Middle East, India and China.

Thus, they have concentrated even more their regional activities around the Port of Rotterdam to gain in scale and international competitiveness”.

The Netherlands’ gas revolution since Groningen has not changed just the balance of its energy basket but also its relationship with its European neighbors. According to Mr. van de Leemput, the Managing Director of NAM (the joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, which explores the Groningen gas field and holds 54% of the Dutch gas assets), in only one generation almost 100% of the Dutch households have switched to gas for heating and 45 per cent of them use gas for electricity. The Netherlands also produces and exports 15 per cent of the gas consumed in the European Union. These are the kind of things Nigeria should strive for.
Source: Vanguard, 13th August 2011.

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Delta leaders ask govt to reverse sale of Shell’s assets

FROM MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR (ABUJA), KELVIN EBIRI (PORT HARCOURT) AND CHIDO OKAFOR 

ANPP, Ogoni group task Jonathan on UN report

TRADITIONAL rulers and community leaders who are hosts of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC’s) OML 30 field in Delta State yesterday asked the Federal Government to intervene and reverse the sale of OML 30 in order to avert a possible breakdown of law and order in the community.

At a meeting of the stakeholders at the palace of the Ovie of Ughelli, HRM Oharisi III, the monarchs and leaders said the SPDC lacked the right to sell lands leased to them by communities to another operator without their consent.

They said several communities leased their lands to SPDC for an initial term of 20 years and that the terms had expired twice over and that the SPDC was now trespassing on the land without the renewal of all expired leases.

In a statement after the meeting by Oharisi III and HRM Ovwrawha Omogho, the Odion Ologbo of Oleh, the communities asked the Federal Government to suspend the ongoing sale of  OML  30 until the interests of the host communities had been addressed, saying, “whoever or whatever authority responsible for approving the inchoate sale of OML 30 by SPDC to some unnamed investors should immediately withhold  that approval in the interest of peace and justice pending the resolution of outstanding issues.”

Alleging that SPDC shrouded the bidding process for the assets in the communities in secrecy, they demanded  the immediate cancellation of all commitments already made on the proposed sale and called for a fresh and open bidding process,  saying there should be no urgency in the transfer of SPDC equity interest.

The stakeholders also urged the Bishop Matthew Kuka Committee/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report which  indicted SPDC for breaching national and international environmental laws and regulations to extend its mandate to OML 30 and other oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta to determine the level of environmental degradation and despoliation by SPDC of community lands before any further steps are taken in the proposed sale.

OML host communities suggested that a   joint committee of SPDC and OML 30 communities should work out appropriate compensation for the environmental pollution and degradation of community lands based on the principle of the UNEP/ Kuka report on Ogoniland.

The communities warned that they may no longer guarantee the peace in oil and gas operations in OML 30 host communities unless their stated grievances were urgently and satisfactorily addressed.

Besides, the Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF) has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to commence the implementation of the UNEP  report without  delay.

OSF National Coordinator, Celestine Akpobari, said in view of the extensive ruination of the Ogoni environment, the government should declare the entire Ogoni a national disaster territory and mobilize resources in conjunction with the polluter to immediately clean up the area, in a manner  reminiscent of the situation of the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, to ensure total and acceptable implementation of the UNEP report the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) yesterday called on the Federal Government to involve the oil-producing communities.
Source: The Guardian, 12th August 2011.

 

N’Delta monarchs want Jonathan to speed up devt

By Mike Odiegwu Yenagoa

Traditional rulers and elders from the nine oil-producing states in the Niger Delta have advised President Goodluck Jonathan to give issues of development in the region and in the country the deserved attention.

The stakeholders, under the aegis of the Association of Community Leaders of Oil Producing States said they reviewed the policies and development plans of Jonathan’s administration and concluded that there was a need to speed up project implementation in view of time.

The group in a statement referred Jonathan to the short regime of Murtala Mohammed, saying the President should emulate Mohammed in good governance and development.

The statement by the group’s National Chairman, Mr. Ishmael Frank-Oputu, said though the president had demonstrated passion for development through his utterances, he should hit the ground running.

The statement read, “The next four years is ample time for Jonathan to usher in transformation in the country because it took Murtala only six months to create Abuja and transform Nigeria. In Jonathan’s administration, we expect to see physical development on ground.

“We urge Mr. President to urgently tackle developmental issues in the nine oil producing states or else he would fail the people who have reposed so much trust in him. We are also calling on the Federal Government to create six new states out of the nine oil producing states within the current dispensation in order to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region.”

The community leaders asked Jonathan to ensure commencement of work on the Greenfield Refinery at Oloibiri and the coastal road from Lagos to Calabar.”

“Another project to be addressed is a proposed road linking of Amassoma, Otuan, Oporoma and Igbomotoru communities all in the heart of the oil producing area of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State,” the group said.
Source: Punch, 10th August 2011.

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UN to monitor Ogoni oil spill clean-up

FROM LAOLU AKANDE, NEW YORK
THE United Nations (UN) is said to be planning a close monitoring of the cleanup of Ogoni oil spill recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its report last week.

According to Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN leader is being briefed about the details of the UNEP report, which called for the biggest oil spill cleanup ever recommended.

Although Nesirky did not state what the initial reaction of the secretary-general was to the report, UN sources say the matter is high up  on  Ban’s agenda considering his global concern against pollution generally.

The UN sources added that the entire UN system especially the UNEP and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would be deployed with specific instructions to help Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and the oil companies involved, especially Shell to conduct an acceptable cleanup that is to last several years.

The resolve of the UN to conduct an effective follow-up according to sources is because the UNEP report itself detailed how oil companies and the Nigerian government failed to meet their own standards, and how the stipulated process of investigation, reporting and cleanup was deeply flawed in favour of the oil firms and against the victims.

For instance, while in the United States (U.S.), oil spills get immediate responses in order to avert community and media uproar, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where there are far more incidents of pollution, response if it comes at all can take as long as months.

Besides, sources say it would take a concerted effort to ensure that local contaminated areas in Ogoni are cleaned up in as long as five years, and the heavily-impacted mangrove areas and swamplands could even take a much longer number of years  - as much as up to 30 years.

Short of an international focus and monitoring from a credible body like the UN, the cleanup may easily become a mirage, a source stated.

Equally, the report itself asked that all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to an end before the cleanup of the creeks, sediments and mangroves can begin.

Indeed, western media outlets and non-governmental organisations have since been awash with comments on the findings of the UNEP, which has called for what is deemed as the biggest ever oil cleanup in world record.

For instance, Amnesty International while commenting on the UNEP report said “oil companies have been exploiting Nigeria’s weak regulatory system for too long.”

According to Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International, the process of reporting and investigation of spills in Nigeria do not “adequately prevent environmental damage and they frequently fail to properly address the devastating impact that their bad practice has on people’s lives.”

Regarding follow-up measures, the UNEP report recommends establishing three new institutions in Nigeria to support a comprehensive environmental restoration.

A proposed Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority would oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and should be set up during a transition phase, which UNEP suggests should begin as soon as possible.

The authority’s activities should be funded by an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, to be set up with an initial capital injection of $1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the government, to cover the first five years of the clean-up.

A recommended Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, to be built in Ogoniland and supported by potentially hundreds of mini-treatment centres, would treat contaminated soil and provide hundreds of job opportunities.

The report also recommends creating a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland to promote learning and benefit other communities impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world.

Reforms of environmental government regulation, monitoring and enforcement, and improved practices by the oil industry are also recommended in the report.

The UNEP report stated already that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland oil region could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up ever, if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and other ecosystems are to be brought back to full health, according to a UN report.

It could take 25 years to 30 years, with an initial investment of $1 billion just for the first five years, to clean up pollution from more than 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta, ranging from the “disastrous” impact on mangrove vegetation to the contamination of wells with potentially cancer-causing chemicals in a region that is home to some one million people.

The independent scientific assessment, carried out by the UNEP over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.
Source: The Guardian, 9
th August 2011.

 

FG, UNDP to roll out N/Delta development framework soon

KEHINDE AKINTOLA, ABUJA

Federal Government, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tuesday unveiled a plan to develop a framework for the Niger Delta region in line with the transformation agenda of the present administration.

Orubebe, who gave the hint in Abuja while receiving management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) led by Ian Craig, executive vice president, sub-Saharan Africa, assured that the report would be made available to the multi-national oil companies and other stakeholders to make contributions on ways to move the region forward.

The minister, who stressed the need for all the multi-national oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region to imbibe the spirit of dialogue in resolving all issues with the host communities rather than resorting to judicial actions, pledged the ministry’s commitment to ensuring amicable and peaceful co-existence between the multi-national companies and the host communities in the region.

The minister reiterated that Mr. President’s transformation agenda in the Niger Delta can only succeed when there is peace in the region, noting that most of the issues in the Niger Delta have been resolved through dialogue.
Source: Business Day, 9
th
August 2011.

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Rehabilitating Niger Delta’ll Gulp N1b – UN

Rehabilitating the Niger Delta area, particularly Ogoniland, would be one of the world most tasking, wide-ranging and long term oil clean up exercise ever recorded across the globe, President Goodluck Jonathan was told yesterday.

This was the content of a report on the environmental assessment of Ogonilandpresented to President Goodluck Jonathan by the United Nations EnvironmentProgramme at the presidential villa yesterday.

The UN agency said that the exercise must be undertaken “if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full productive health”.

Accordingly, the report said that full environmental restoration in the region last up to about 30 years if an initial $1 billion fund recommended was earmarked to kick-start the clean-up exercise.

Alarmed by the said report, President Jonathan said that environmental challenges in the area were severe because pollutants could migrate to other places not expected. He enjoined the UNEP that, in addition to helping the country to conduct this study, it should assist in tackling the problem.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International yesterday gave a nod to the United Nations report that the people of Niger Delta Region, particularly the Ogoni People in Rivers State, have long suffered from wide spread and severe oil contamination caused by the disastrous activities of Shell Oil company.

In a statement signed by its Global Issues Director, Audrey Gaughran and made available to LEADERSHIP, the report from the United Nations EnvironmentProgramme which is the first of its kind in Nigeria and based on two years of in-depth scientific research revealed that the human rights of the Niger Deltans have been infringed upon for decades.

According to him, the report proved beyond doubt that the activities of Shell, have had a terrible impact in Nigeria.

They further explained that the report which was conducted at the request of the Nigerian government and paid for by Shell, exposed the evidence of the devastating impact of oil pollution on people’s lives in the region.

The statement further said that the research which examined the damage to agriculture and fisheries that has destroyed livelihoods and food sources, brought to limelight the scale of contamination of drinking water which in turn exposed end ushers to serious health risks.

The statement reads in part, “we found water in the region to contain a known carcinogen at levels 900 times above World Health Organisation guidelines.”
The report also revealed Shell’s systemic failure to address oil spills going back many years. UNEP described how sites that Shell claimed were cleaned up were found by experts to be still polluted.
“Shell must put its hands up, and face the fact that it has to deal with the damage it has caused. Trying to hide behind the actions of others, when Shell is the most powerful actor on the scene, simply won’t wash,” said Audrey Gaughran.
“There is no solution to the oil pollution in Niger Delta as long as Shell continues to focus on protecting its corporate image at the expense of the truth, and at the expense of justice”.
The report’s findings also exposed the serious failure of the Nigerian government to regulate and control companies like Shell.

UNEP found that Nigeria’s regulators were weak and Nigeria’s oil spill investigation agency was often totally reliant on the oil companies to do its work.

The Nigerian government, the oil companies, and the home governments of these companies, such as the UK and Netherlands, have all benefited from oil extraction in the Niger Delta and should now support a social and environmental rehabilitation process, said Amnesty International.

“This report should also be a wake-up call to institutional investors. In the past they’ve allowed Shell’s Public Relations machine to pull the wool over their eyes, but they will now want to see the company cleaning up its act in the Niger Delta - that means putting real pressure on Shell to avoid spillages, compensate those already affected and disclose more accurate information on their impacts,” said Audrey.
Gaughran.

The UN report noted that there were other, relatively new, sources of pollution inOgoniland, such as illegal refining but it is clear that Shell’s poor practice stretching back decades was a major factor in the contamination of Ogoniland.
Source: Leadership, 5th August 2011.

 

N69b scam: Niger Delta monarchs back NDDC probe
Reject call for merger of NDDC with Niger Delta Ministry

From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja

Traditional rulers from oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta on Tuesday commended President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to probe the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) following an alleged N69 billion scam rocking the intervention agency.

The President had last week raised a panel of inquiry headed by former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsanye, to investigate the alleged scam.

The traditional rulers group under the Association of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON), also commended Jonathan for “taking a radical departure from the past” by not suspending the NDDC management before going ahead with the probe. 
The monarchs described such move as respect “for the gospel of rule of law and due process,” adding that such a decision would enable Nigerians have a true picture of the problems.

They also advised the President against an attempt by certain persons to merge the NDDC with the Ministry of Niger Delta, as according to them, the agency had been instrumental to the return of peace to the Niger Delta.

In a statement released in Abuja yesterday by the National Chairman of TROMPCON, Dr. Lawrence Adetemi, Omowale III, the Amapetu of Mahin Kingdom, the traditional rulers stated that the squabbles in the commission have portrayed the Niger Delta as a region without focus and put a big question mark on the developmental question and human capital development of the area.

The statement reads in part: “It is with joy and relief that TROMPCON received last Wednesday’s constitution of an administrative panel by the President to look into the crises in the commission as well as identify areas of rift with a view to proffering solutions that will enhance institutional potency as well as strengthen the values and virtues of the commission.“Above all, by taking a radical departure from the past in which those accused are suspended before enquiries, President Jonathan has by his action given a clear indication of his readiness to let the public have a better insight and perception of the problems bedeviling the NDDC. 

“This attests to a new and commendable presidential direction in the gospel of rule of law and due process. We strongly advise Mr President not to contemplate scrapping the NDDC or merging the NDDC with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as such action will be very detrimental to the entire people of the Niger Delta region.”

The traditional rulers said that even though they are aware that some officials being probed could attempt to influence the probe, they are confident that the caliber of persons in the probe panel, headed by Mr. Oronsanye  will do their assignment without blemish.
Source: Sun, 3rd August 2011.

 

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