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Relocation of IOCs to Niger Delta overdue, say stakeholders

By Godwin Ijediogor (Asaba), Ann Godwin and Obinna Nwaoku (Port Harcourt)
29 October 2021   |   4:12 am
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and some stakeholders in the host communities have said the relocation of international oil companies (IOCs) to Niger Delta region was loverdue.

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The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and some stakeholders in the host communities have said the relocation of international oil companies (IOCs) to Niger Delta region was loverdue.

The stakeholders, including the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, Chairman of Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities, Barituka Loanyie, and leader of Egbema Voice of Freedom, Evaristus Nicholas, said the IOCs have no further reason not to relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta, stressing that the excuses of insecurity and hostility are no longer tenable.

Similarly, a member of the House of Representatives, Professor Steve Azaiki, saw the directive to the IOCs to relocate to their area of operation as a welcome development, adding: “It is only proper that you live with the people of the communities where you get your raw materials and revenue, because it is only then that you can understand their wailing, cries and challenges that make them think and behave the way they do.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member representing Yenagoa/Opokuma/Kolokuma Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State recalled that at a time in the country, Texaco had all exploration activities in Bayelsa State, but was paying tax to Lagos State, because the staff lived in Lagos, flew into Bayelsa, did their work and flew back to Lagos, wondering: “What do you expect the people to think or do in such a situation?

“So, the oil companies establishing presence in the oil-producing communities or states from where they derive their resources and revenues is a normal standard practice. People just took advantage of the Niger Delta youths’ reaction to perceived injustice going on in the area and agitation for a better deal to leave completely, which is not right.

“If this country must become a great nation, we must do away with injustice, nepotism, tribalism and all those things that divide us. We must have patriotic men and women who must see the whole Nigeria as their constituency and all Nigerians as their brothers and sisters.

“But if we keep pretending that we don’t know that some people somewhere in the country are dying or not happy with the current system or keep playing hide and seek with one another, we will have a long way to go.”

Robinson said PANDEF received the directive by the Senate with skepticism considering that the National Assembly is now like a toothless bulldog, saying: “They issue needful directives and make resolutions, but lack the powers to enforce them.”

He recalled that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in March 2017 at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, during a town hall meeting in continuation of his visit to the region, first gave the directive first to the IOCs to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta, but regretted that four years after, the Federal Government has continued to show apathy in enforcing the directive, thereby denying the region the benefits derivable from such relocation.

He described the failure of IOCs to obey the directive as a grave disservice to the region where oil and gas exploration activities continue to degrade the ecosystem and attenuate the peoples’ means of livelihood, with little or no effort to ameliorate their consequential dire standard of living.

“We can responsibly posit that the region is the most stable zone in the country today. We know those who do not want the IOCs to relocate. What is needed now is a stern ‘Presidential Order’ by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to the IOCs to move their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region without any further delay, and a deadline of March next year will be appropriate.”

In the same vein, Loanyie said if the federal government is serious about the relocation of the IOCs, the best thing is a Presidential Order, saying the senate knows that its directive won’t hold water, even though the people of the oil producing communities are always prepared to host the IOCs in peace and harmony.

On his part, Nicholas said the directive is long overdue, adding that such relocation would boost the affected states’ internally generated revenue (IGR) through tax that would enhance development and entrench the quality of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered with local communities, as well as boost the confidence of the host communities that federal government is beginning to toe the right path.

He stated: “Wherever there is no justice, a crisis is inevitable. The moment the relocation is done, it will send a very strong signal to the oil-bearing communities that the federal government and players in the oil industry are beginning to listen to their yearnings and will help to build their confidence that has already been broken down.”

On fears of insecurity and agitation in the region, Azaiki said: “Once you have justice, fair-play, consideration, compassion and respect in your operations and activities, there would be peace and harmony in the area.

“But let me also add that nobody should use insecurity as an excuse, because right now there are more federal and foreign organisations, agencies and departments in the Northeast, particularly Borno State, than anywhere else in the country. After all, we don’t have terrorists and bandits in the Niger Delta.”

Nicholas added: “The fear of vandalism is no longer an excuse not to relocate, because the region is the most peaceful in the country at the moment. If the pipes are here and they are drilling oil daily, what stops them from putting the headquarters here?”