Niger Delta anxiously awaits FG’s action on PANDEF 16-point demand

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The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is rich in oil and gas reserves. It is the region that produces more than 80 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings through the production and exportation crude oil. Being the region richly endowed with resources, it follows that it provides the bulk of finances used by the Federal Government. Sadly however, the region over the years has been plagued by underdevelopment, pollution from oil exploration activities, neglect and cases of injustice as well as unemployment. For instance, though it is the region that produces the ‘wealth’ of the nation, very few of its sons and daughters occupy commanding positions in the nation’s oil industry while a significant percentage of its huge gas reserves is flared daily. It is an irony that a region that produces gas does not have regular supply of electricity. To address this challenge facing the region, several strategies had been adopted in the past while some prominent sons of the region have paid the supreme sacrifice for the injustice to be addressed. This inability for the issues to be addressed led to increased militant activities which in recent times resulted in the attack of oil installations. With several interest groups seeking to provide a platform for resolving the crisis, the emergence of a unified platform, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has been a welcome development. After a “rigorous assessment of the problems bordering on the recent resurgence of militant activities” the group came up with “dialogue issues” needed to restore hope and confidence in the region that would guarantee peace and development. According to the 16-point demand presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by the group in November 1, 2016, it identified lack of key regional critical infrastructure, absence of power supply, issues of economic development and empowerment, fiscal federalism, restructuring and funding of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the strengthening of the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as key dialogue areas. Others include the presidential amnesty programme, law and justice issues, plight of Internally Displaced Persons, the Ogoni Clean up and Environmental remediation, the maritime university issue, security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure , the Bakassi question as well as inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership of oil blocks. According to Edwin Clark, leader and convener of the group, though much has been achieved since the meeting with President Buhari, it has however, recorded modest achievements which according to him include the interaction with the people and the leaders of the communities “to hear them, seek an understanding about their problems and concerns and present a new roadmap to develop the oil producing communities.” This has been translated into action with the recent tour of the region by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in which many landmark decisions and pronouncements were reached. According to Clark, some of the commitments made during the tour include that oil companies should relocate to their operational base, the decision to set up modular refineries in the area to legitimately engage the illegal refiners, kicking the process of establishing the National Maritime University at Okerenkoko and the overhaul of the presidential amnesty programme. Others include construction of access road passing through the Escravos to the National Maritime University community and the decision to make oil producing communities the hub of the  petrochemical industry and the power sector noting that the over militarisation of the region and its attendant increasing tension has reduced significantly. Clark maintains that “the demand for the oil companies to move their headquarters to their operational base should be considered very seriously “noting that it would be a wake-up call for the companies to begin to take care of their social responsibilities to their host communities. “I am advocating that Mobil should relocate to Eket in Akwa Ibom State, Chevron should relocate its headquarters to Warri in Delta State while Agip should relocate to Bayelsa and the haphazard relocation of the headquarters of Shell to Port Harcourt should be taken more seriously and completed speedily,” he said. The formation of the group appeared to have led to the achievements made within the short period. However, the issue of lopsided appointment is another contentious matter with only two indigenes of the area, Ibe Kachickwu and Thomas John appointed by the Federal Government into the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company. According to him, six of the other members of the board are from the North which is a non-oil producing area, one member is from the South West and one from the entire South East which is also an oil producing zone. Indeed, the emergence of the regional group has provided a platform for the numerous problems of the region to be addressed through dialogue which has seen the reduction in militant attacks on oil infrastructure recent times. The post Niger Delta anxiously awaits FG’s action on PANDEF 16-point demand appeared first on BusinessDay : News you can trust.
Source: Business Day Online