Monday, 5th June 2023

‘Government should fully implement local content act’

By Obire Onakemu
18 June 2016   |   2:06 am
Blowing up oil installations by any group, including Niger Delta Avengers, is a criminal act notwithstanding the age long neglect of the area. It is the most underdeveloped area in Nigeria.
Engineer J. G. Orubu

Engineer J. G. Orubu

Engineer J. G. Orubu is the Chairman Oil and Gas Ijaw Host Communities Delta State Chapter and an Environmental Activist. In this interview, he tells OBIRE ONAKEMU that blowing up oil installations by any group is a criminal act notwithstanding the age-long neglect of the area. To enable a secure environment for oil companies to continue with their operation, he urged federal government to fully implement the local content Act of 2010 and a passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly, among other sundry issues.

How do you see the ongoing disturbances in the Niger Delta, where a group, Niger Delta Avengers, is blowing up oil installations?
Blowing up oil installations by any group, including Niger Delta Avengers, is a criminal act notwithstanding the age long neglect of the area. It is the most underdeveloped area in Nigeria. No light, no water, no government hospitals, no road network, in fact, no federal presence.

How can government ensure a secured environment for oil companies to continue their operations?
Number one is to implement fully the local content law of 2010, a passage of the PIB (Petroleum Industry bill) in the National Assembly with commitment to embark upon corporate social responsibility by the companies operating within the Niger Delta taking note that these people have surrendered their ecosystem for the economic survival of the nation, because of the negative impact of gas and oil exploitation in the area. A given percentage of their budget should be reserved for development of the area, including employment and promotion of the indigenes of the area.

Can military option help in restoring sanity in the Niger Delta? How do you see the military siege to Gbaramatu?
Let me commend our president for the effort he is making to improve the economy of the country. This effort should include bridge building, making friends with everybody in the country to make the load lighter. Military option cannot achieve this purpose. Gbaramatu kingdom is yet to recover from the devastation by the Nigerian government few years ago. It is too early for Gbaramatu to experience another trauma in the hands of Federal Government. Military effort is never the solution, by the way is the police force now redundant. For the security of the whole country, I want to advise that we should use the military appropriately and use the police constitutionally. Searching for criminals is the duty of the police force.

Are you in support of a Sovereign State of Niger Delta?
The issues of state creation were well articulated in the past Sovereign National Conference and I am made to understand that state creation brings governance nearer to the people and facilitate development. That being the case, I support the state creation, particularly because of its peculiar terrain and the under-development. For instance, there is no university in the riverine area.

Is the military fair with communities where oil installations were bombed in their operations?
The answer is no and the military is not trained to be fair with civilians, and that is why we in the Niger Delta cry that we are under siege. Our oil is being tapped with the military pointing guns at us but they are not to blame, rather, the government that chose to use them like that. May I, therefore, use this opportunity to call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the democratically elected president to remove the military from the oil locations and involve the host communities.

Is the Niger Delta marginalized?
It is an understatement to say that the Niger Delta is marginalized. A state or region is said to be marginalized in the real sense of it when it contributes to the nation more than it gets in terms of development. With this concept, Niger Delta over the years had always contributed to the Nigerian economy with very little attention. Niger Delta has contributed to Nigeria foreign exchange even before the oil era.

We contributed by our timber lumbering, palm produce, rubber to the era of oil. Oil was discovered in 1956 at Oloibiri in present Bayelsa State today; it is worse than when oil was not discovered in the area in terms of development. Sea Ports like Forcados port, Burutu, Sapele, and Warri were abandoned by successive governments, beautiful places, which ought to be resorts by now. In some states in this country, you can count up to 40- something local governments, but here, some states have eight local governments; whereas Federal allocation sharing is proportional to number of local governments.

Do you believe that military operation in the Niger Delta can stop vandalism?
Military operations have never solved any problem. It can only be palliative. It may serve as a means to the end. It is more wasteful, in terms of resources, materials and human life, but can’t stop vandalism if not accompanied by negotiations.

If deliberate effort is not made to look for the cause, people all over the world have known that it’s more productive to build bridges than to engage in military as a means to moving the country forward. It has never brought permanent solution anywhere in the world.

What do you make of the high power advocacy committee headed by Barrister Kingsley Otuaro that was set up by the Delta State Government in respect of the bombing of oil pipelines? Advocacy is one of the most reliable ways of solving a problem. Peace achieved through advocacy is sustainable. Advocacy enlightens people through dialogue. Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, a lawyer and a young man, is very appropriate for the assignment. If the Federal Government supports him, he will not only stop bombings, but can create a total peace in the area. So far he has visited several riverine communities with the message to stop bombings and embrace dialogue and I have no doubt that with the right support he would succeed.

How would you like to conclude this interview?
May I sincerely appeal to the Federal Government to seek for genuine leaders in the Niger Delta for dialogue in other to put an end to the bombing, because of the dangerous consequence on the economy of the nation and the suffering of the masses and direct impact it will cause on 2016 budget.