There is brewing tension in the oil and gas sector of the Niger Delta as the Ijaw of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri Southwest Local Government of Delta State, threatened to cripple the nation’s oil business in its domain if the Federal Government continue to give deaf ear to myriad of marginalization issues besetting the area.
Gbaramatu, host to several major oil and gas facilities in the region belonging to SPDC, Chevron/Texaco and other marginal oil fields with determined volume oil output, had been the hotbed of militancy occasioned by oil exploitation and under development.
The tension of possible shut down of oil and gas installation followed a strong worded open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over series of vexed issues agitation the people including the failure of the federal government to restart the multi-billion naira Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project including the Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Ogidigben and Deep Seaport, Okenrekoko, Gbaramatu.
BIGPEN gathered that the people of the area are also worried over the failure of the Buhari’s administration to restart the Omadinor-Excravos road Project that was discontinued by APC-led administration.
It was gathered that the recently announced bidding process for 57 Marginal fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), is causing agitation in the area.
The letter containing the vexed issues was copied the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Director General of DSS, Delta State Governor, Chairmen of Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas, all Oil and Gas Companies operating within the area.
In the letter obtained by BIGPEN on Monday, the Spokesman of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama (JP), said that the grievances of the people of the area had been made to the federal government overtime including the one made to Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on his visit to the Kingdom in January 2017.
BIGPEN understands prior to Osinbajo visit in 2017 to Gbaramatu Kingdom, recalcitrant militants under the auspices of Niger Delta Avengers were up in arms against the federal government but a ceasefire was reached following a social contract.
“In this letter, we will state a few of an inexhaustible list of grievances that threaten the continued peaceful upholding of this social contract that has now turned one sided.
“The Omadinor-Excravos road Project that was started and would have led to greater peaceful coexistence and dramatically improved economic relations between the neighbouring Local Governments has been put on indefinite hold under this administration.
“Your Excellency, you will recall that Gbaramatu Kingdom has kept to our end of the social contract that enabled the end of the previous dangerous era of agitation that was prevalent in Gbaramatu Kingdom”, Gbenekama said, adding that since the peace accord, Gbaramatu has been one of the safest places to live, do business and visit in Nigeria, “despite your government’s refusal to treat us fairly”.
He said that the Federal Government had reneged on the execution of major projects that were agitating the people prior to the ceasefire secured from the agitators including the EPZ project and Omadinor-Excravos road Project.
He lamented that the road which would have cement a working and more cordial relationship, aiding peaceful coexistence between the Ijaws and Itsekiris of Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas, was abandoned by the Buhari’s administration.
The EPZ project which was inaugurated by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, would have created thousands of direct and Indirect Jobs for the area but was abandoned, the letter read.
According to Gbenekama, Gbaramatu, which spans a large part of one of three major Oil Producing Local Governments in Delta State (Warri South-West) is arguably one of the largest single benefactor Kingdoms of the Nigerian state.
Despite this, those of us who live in these areas where these exploration activities are carried out have been marginalised, ignored, taken advantage of, all the while, suffering the devastating side effects of this exploration that has occurred due to an almost zero federal presence in our communities, he lamented in the letter.
Continuing, he said, “While Gas is piped from our communities to provide electricity to the North, West and other areas, our communities are left to grope in darkness. For example, the Azama and Inikorogha communities have been in darkness for close to 18 months because the light project where contractors are supposed to provide Diesel for the generator in use has not been happening. Contractors have neither been mobilised nor given approval to provide the Diesel the generator needs.
“This is the same case in Opuedebubor and Tebujor, where the Nigerian Gas Company has welched on their responsibility to procure Diesel for these communities, leading to a state of perpetual darkness for the past 12-18 months.
“If this procurement process is not resumed immediately, we will be forced to stop pleading with the women of the communities who we have held back for months from going to the NGC office in Warri and occupying their offices. The presence of the ongoing Gas Generator project for these communities does not mean the communities should remain in darkness in perpetuity. The diesel procurement should continue until such a time as it becomes obsolete with the Gas Generator becoming operational. This continued darkness is untoward and has added to a myriad of other issues like Pollution, poor sanitary conditions, total absence of potable water, lack of healthcare facilities to deal with the ailments that continued oil and gas exploration has caused.
“As we have shown, the federal Government owes a debt of gratitude to and a duty that can only begin to be repaid by fulfilling its commitments and obligations to the Kingdom.
“This continued, untoward, deplorable and disgraceful marginalisation has been brought to a head with the news of the recently announced bidding process for 57 Marginal fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
“We are by this medium, announcing our total and unequivocal objection to a bidding process that has for long excluded well to do, and capable Gbaramatu indigenes.
“If we are wrong in this assertion, we hereby call on the Federal Government and all its Oil and Gas agencies to within ten (10) days publish the names of any and all Gbaramatu indigenes that have directly benefited from any of these bidding processes.
“The goose that lays the golden eggs is tired of seeing said eggs carted away and enjoyed by everyone else without any discernible impact on its environment. The DPR has for years now, denied the Oil Mining Licenses required to partake in this bidding process to capable sons and daughters of the very places where these Oil fields are situated, and we say no more!
“Another grouse of ours is the floating dock/shipyard that was meant for Gbaramatu Kingdom, and which, for unknown reasons, your administration is bent on diverting to other areas. The Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard which was originally planned to be situated close to the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko and was expected to provide students hands-on experience of the Industry they are training to join, has inexplicably been relocated.
“This is a massive slight, not only on a Kingdom that has partnered this Government on peace initiatives but is also a blatant and ill-advised attempt to deprive students of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, such a brilliant learning opportunity. This is a gross dereliction of duty and one we condemn in the strongest possible terms.
“We have also noticed with dismay the blatant lopsided appointments into various National agencies with no room for Gbaramatu indigenes despite our stated high contribution to the National cake. Were we to start enumerating the instances where Government agencies in your administration have been accused of nepotism in the hiring and appointment process, we may have to take over a National Newspaper for a Week, such has been the preponderance of these instances.
“We have had instances where qualified Gbaramatu indigenes have been passed over for appointment and employment opportunities. Even within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which is funded exclusively from the resources taken from our lands and waters, there has been such a lopsided slant to both appointments and employment opportunities, that indigenes of places like ours who fund the NNPC have no place in these opportunities, while less qualified, sometimes junior colleagues are flown all over the country to man oil installations while we bear the brunt of said exploration. This is an unfair state of affairs that we will no longer accept”.
The demands of the communities are reproduced below:
We urge you to restart the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park, Ogidigben and Deep Seaport, Gbaramatu Project
Mr President, we implore you to restart the Omadinor-Excravos road Project that was discontinued by your administration
The immediate halt of the current bidding process for the 57 Marginal Fields and come up with modalities where competent companies owned by Gbaramatu Sons and Daughters will be given the right of first refusal on fields located in Gbaramatu and within the Warri South-West local Government Area.
The urgent and immediate relocation to Gbaramatu of the Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard.
A clear path to employment and appointment opportunities for our capable sons and daughters.
If these demands are not considered and modalities put in place for their achievement, we will shut down ALL Oil and Gas operations in our homeland Ten (10 ) days after the publication of this letter.
Your Excellency, we await your immediate action and response, to avert fresh crisis in the Oil and Gas Industry, that will exacerbate the incoming financial crisis caused by COVID-19. We have stayed Silent too long. We will be Silent no more!