UPDATED: Ijaw/Itsekiri Vow To Block FG’s $2.8b AKK Gas Project If $16b EPZ Is Left Out

…Reiterate Threat To Shut Down All Oil Installations In Their Domain

The Ijaw and Itsekiri people of Warri South, Warri Southwest and Warri North Local Government Area of Delta state have vowed to disrupt any attempt to pipe gas from their domain to run the Federal Government $2.8 billion Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project without commencing work on the much-publicized $16 billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ).

BIGPEN reports that the ground-breaking of the EPZ project was performed by former President Goodluck Jonathan after several postponements at the last lap of Jonathan’s administration in March 2015 but the project was abandoned by the Buhari’s administration on assumption of office.

Reports had it that the last thing that was heard about the project was in February 2018 when the federal government sent a delegation of its steering committee on the project headed by Sheikh Mohamed Bayorh on a fact-finding mission to Delta state. The committee met with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa then.

The Export Processing Zone is reputed to be the largest gas project in sub-Saharan Africa. Contentiously, the EPZ project is said to have two components; the Industrial Gas Park at Ogidigben and the Deep Sea Port in the Gbaramatu axis.

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It was learned that the renewed protest over the discontinuation of the project, among others which have triggered fresh agitations in the creeks communities of the Niger Delta, was stemmed from President Muhammadu Buhari’s recently flagged off AKK gas project which is being planned to gathered gas from the Niger Delta to the North.

Addressing a joint press conference on Sunday, Chief Godspower Gbenekama (JP) who spoke on behalf of Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chiefs and Chief Mike Odeli who spoke on behalf of Itsekiri Oil and Gas Communities, wondered why the Federal Government would abandoned the multi-billion naira Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project and start off an AKK project that intend to piped gas from the Niger Delta region.

“It will interest you to note that the just concluded ground breaking of the 614km long Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) natural gas pipeline meant to convey gas to the Northern part of the country, Morocco, the United Kingdom, etc a 40-inches diameter pipeline expected to transport 3,500 million metric standard cubic feet (MMSCF/D) per day of dehydrated wet gas, which is the same amount of wet gas intended for the GRIP, in Warri South-West LGA but stalled for the former. 

“This is what we termed sheer insensitivity by a government that displays ill-attitude towards developing other regions, especially the ones that lay the golden eggs like ours. It beats our imagination as to how a government that claimed to practice and encourage local production suddenly deviate from its agenda rather than encourage local industrialization through project such as the GRIP, instead opted to sustain the continued exportation of our natural gas without adding value to them.

“On this, while we are in total support of the AAK, we say the GRIP-EPZ must be continued or we will be constrained disrupt any attempt to continue with the AKK”, they vowed.

They said that they decided to tarry a bit following moves by the Delta state Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa through his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro to broker truce but the federal government have remained insensitive and adamance to their demands including creating opportunity for indigenes of the host communities to partake in the recently announced 57 Marginal Fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.

“The Itsekiri oil/gas producing communities and Gbaramatu Ijaws, have been grossly marginalized in bid offers, since the discovery of Crude Oil in our Homelands for over 60 years running. This is despite the mammoth environment hazards, poor sanitary conditions, lack of health care facilities and zero Federal Presence in Gbaramatu and Itsekiri Oil/Gas Producing Communities in Delta state. 

“We must at this juncture, reiterate our total rejection of the recently announced 57 Marginal Fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.

“We can no longer continue to sit down and watch outsiders, being offered Oil Mining Licenses in our homelands, when we have capable Gbaramatu and Itsekiri Sons as well as Daughters, whose firms are qualified, but repeatedly denied such licenses by the sustained-structural bias of the NNPC and its subsidiaries such as the DPR”.

In a communiqué issued read by Chief Odeli at the press conference, the people reiterated that the Buhari’s Ajaokuta–Kaduna–Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project would fail without the resumption of work at the Multi-Billion Dollar Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, GRIP and the Deep-Sea Port in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State.

The communiqué reads in parts; “We are calling on the Federal Government to immediately halt the current process of bids for the 57 Marginal Fields whereby the doctrine of necessity should be invoked and applied to incorporate the interest of competent companies owned by Gbaramatu indigenes as well as Itsekiri Sons and Daughters from oil and gas producing communities given “right of first refusal” on marginal fields in our homelands, before being thrown open to outsiders.

“If competent companies owned by indigenes of Itsekiri oil/gas communities and Gbaramatu people are not considered by DPR for the 57 Marginal Fields with immediate effect, we will be constrained to shut-down operations of the Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies (IOCs) operating in our homelands.

“The Federal Government should direct the relevant MDAs/IOCs to embark on large scale shore protection/sand-filling projects in Itsekiri Oil/Gas producing communities and the Gbaramatu kingdom

“The Federal Government should institute a process for the facilitation of the abandoned age-long Omadino- Escravos Road and the Koko/Ogheye Road Projects, which have remained a mere campaign tool for successive administrations, despite their strategic importance to the socio-economic development of Delta state and the South-Western part of Nigeria.

“The urgent and immediate relocation of the Floating Dock/Ship Building Yard to enhance capacity building for students at the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko as was earlier envisaged.

“We demand an immediate and comprehensive investigation into what led to millions of dead and rotten fishes that surfaced on the waterways and fish-traps in Gbaramatu Kingdom and coastal Itsekiri communities, intending to carry out the necessary remediation, so that the needful can be done for those who have suffered loss or damage.

The ethnic nations also demanded the President Buhari-led federal government to direct the IOCs working in their land to revoke and applied the Local Content Act in their employment regime.

They also want the Federal Government to instruct Nigerian Port Authority through the Ministry of Transportation to dredge the Escravos Bar-Mouth to enhance the optimum usage of the Warri, Koko, Burutu, and Sapele ports in Delta State.

The people also demanded immediate constitution of a substantive NDDC board instead of the present interim committee, which according to them, “lavishly wasted our derivation money on Covid-19 without recourse to the communities that should have the larger chunk of the accrued money to the commission, and whose interests are capitally inimical to the development of the Itsekiri Oil/Gas producing communities and the Gbaramatu kingdom”.

“We eagerly await speedy action on this as the clock ticks closer to our joint ultimatum, to avert a fresh crisis in the Oil and Gas Industry”, the communiqué warned.

The communiqué was copied the Minister of Defence, all service chiefs, Director General Of Department of State Service (DSS), Delta State Governor, Chairmen of Warri South, Warri South-West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta as well as Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies, IOCs (E.g SPDC and CNL).