Burubo: There should be timeline for relocation of oil companies to Niger Delta
Victor Burubo is the Publicity Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress (INC). He told KELVIN EBIRI, that though the presidential directive to multinational oil companies to relocate their corporate headquarters to Niger Delta is vague, it gives a flicker of hope.
How did the people of Niger Delta receive the directive that oil companies should relocate their corporate headquarters to the region?
First of all, the idea is a good one. It is commendable, but it does not hold any meaning for the people of the Niger Delta, because no time frame was attached to the directive. How long should this directive be carried out? Is it in three months, six months or one year? We do not know. That worries me. The directive has been given, but within what time frame? Without a time frame, that directive has no basis whatsoever.
Are you insinuating that government was insincere on the directive?
Well, everything from a politician is political. I don’t know if it was said to keep our people quiet for some time. But we take it seriously and we have to hope about it. If the Acting President said it, we know he means it. And we are calling on him to put a time frame to it, so that we know what to hold on to.
Does that suggest the Federal government has started to address the demands of stakeholders in the region?
The Federal Government is talking about it as other governments did in the past. We need precision. When you say something, give it a time frame. And after you have said it, put machinery in motion for its implementation. The Ogoni cleanup, which was flagged off in June last year, it is already nearly ten months, they have inaugurated the governing council and the board of trustees, but nothing else has happened. And that is why we are saying; it is not enough to just talk. We have had enough talks. There is no time for talks. What we need is concrete action. When the Acting President came, he did not come with a single report of anything that the government has done in Niger Delta in nearly two years. Not one new road. Not one new infrastructural development. Nothing. He has spoken, but what are the time frame and basic mechanism to actualise the relocation of the multinationals to the Niger Delta?
How will the directive benefit the Niger Delta?
People who are doing business in the Niger Delta will no longer come from abroad to Abuja, get their contracts, go to Lagos, finalise them and then fly back to their country. At least, they come into the Niger Delta to see the place where they are making their billions of Dollar for and see for themselves that this place is in need of a thorough cleanup.
Two, when those offices relocate to the Niger Delta, businesses will come with those offices. Employment opportunities will come. Even, some people will be employed as drivers, security men or directors. If they are going to villages, they will go into partnership with the communities. They will sign Memorandum of Understanding. These are little benefits that will come to the Niger Delta. So, it is a very laudable idea. The region is losing a lot because the operational bases of these companies are in Lagos or elsewhere. They cannot feel our pains. When we do not have light, they don’t know. Look at NLNG in Finima; they supply light to the community. That is one benefit the people can get. If the major companies are located in the Niger Delta, there are lots of benefits to be derived. It will boost the revenue of the states. The companies will pay taxes to the states were they are located. The benefits are many. But most importantly, by reason of conscience, it is also right that if you are mining the resources of the region, if you are taking so much from a region, you should be in that region and share in their pains. When it is good for them, it is good for you. When they have difficulties, share in their difficulties and contribute your quota to ameliorate them.
Won’t this directive become springboard for further agitation?
Why should that lead to crisis? Unless there is a deliberate attempt to muscle, intimidate or subjugate the Niger Delta. If there is not such plan, there will be no crisis. Well, their being in Lagos has not led to any crisis. What will create crisis will create crisis. The right thing to do is to relocate to wherever you are doing your business. Crisis is incidental.
There has been a lull in attacks on oil installations. What is responsible?
Our people in the Niger Delta are reasonable. If you talk to them, they will listen to you and give you the benefit of doubt. You may have noticed that the Acting President’s visit has not resulted to anything tangible yet, but because our people are reasonable, he has been given the benefit of doubt. I hope this government will continue in that light. Before now, when President Muhammadu Buhari was directly in charge, he was belligerent and aloof and threatening. The Vice President came with the disposition for peace, our people have embraced him. Politicians, the agitators, the citizens generally have embraced him and given him the benefit of doubt. And I think that has created the right environment for meaningful things to begin to happen in the Niger Delta.