Enabling environment critical to IOCs relocation to Niger Delta
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector have emphasized the need for the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to facilitate the relocation of International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the Niger Delta region.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, during his peace tour of the oil-rich region, had directed the IOCs operating in the Niger-Delta to relocate their headquarters to their states of operation to mitigate tension in the host communities.
But, while some IOCs claimed that they already have offices in the Niger Delta, some others kept mum, even as this is not the first time the Nigerian Government is making such a request.
It is believed that relocating to the Niger Delta, will bring the IOCs closer to the people and make them more aware of the plight of the host communities, as opposed to when their managements operate from Lagos and Abuja, and only have third party information on the issues arising.
Speaking on the relocation order, President, Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji, said compliance will be a major step in quelling the underdevelopment, poverty and associated social vices like militancy and insecurity in the area.
Doing otherwise, he said, is tantamount to playing the ostrich game, saying: “Just as the management of international oil companies like, Shell, Chevron, Total, etc. reside in war torn but oil producing countries like Iraq and Libya to work and produce their oil instead of running to safe havens. The fastest way to curbing the insecurity in the oil producing Niger Delta is for these oil companies management to ‘take the bull by the horn’, to work and reside in their areas of operations.
“That way they will lobby and support the government to show strong political will in not only churning out good policies, but in developing the area especially in the areas of infrastructure, education, health, entrepreneurial skills and maintaining security.”
He said the relocation of IOCs to the region will increase economic activities and the youths will be gainfully engaged instead of indulging in unlawful and illegal activities.
Membere-Otaji continued, “Also, because most of the key oil producing states of the country are coastal states, with moribund seaports, re-awaking the Eastern ports in Port Harcourt, Warri, Sapele and Calabar. This will not only activate massive economic activities in the South-South and South-Eastern ports of the country through ports and shipping services but will also put most of the youths in gainful employment and not criminality.
“Today, the Eastern ports barely function because of obsolete infrastructure and un-dredged channels. Most people in the area import and export their goods through the Western ports of Lagos. Imagine that Singapore, without any natural resources but just a shipping hub is a first world country. But Port Harcourt, founded in 1912 by the then colonial government as a port city and economic Mecca for all at the time, then one can add up and realise the socio-economic importance of revival of the Eastern ports as panacea to the nation’s current socio-economic dilemma.
But for the President, Oildata Energy Group, Emeka Ene, “The concept of the relocation of IOCs is a good one provided it includes a commitment from the individual states where oil field activities take place to guarantee security and property rights for IOCs to operate. Right now, this is not the case.”
Against this backdrop, Abuja-based consultant and analyst, Ifeanyi Izeze, who described the government’s order, as a step in the right direction, however, urged it to “go beyond giving orders and solving the issue of insecurity. Government should assure the IOCs that their personnel working in the region will be safe. Government should also fulfill its promises to the Niger Delta people; when their demand and government’s promise to them are fulfilled, militancy will be a thing of the past in the Niger Delta region.”
Similarly, the Executive Secretary, Lubricant Producers Association of Nigeria (LUPAN), Emeka Obidike, said the relocation of the IOCs to the Niger Delta will enable to foreign companies engage more in corporate social responsibility.
He added that it will also bring about development and provision of social amenities in the areas, as the IOCs’ presence in the region will put pressure on the Federal Government to enforce sustainable peace. Obidike commended the government for engaging in the peace negotiation with the Niger Delta people, saying that this should prove to the IOCs that it is serious about enthroning lasting peace in the region.