The effect of oil stakeholders’ engagement meeting convey by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu in Delta State on Tuesday, appears to be hanging in the balance as Chief Edwin Kaigbodo Clark and other critical stakeholders in Pan Niger Delta Forum were conspicuously absent.
BigPen Online gathered that Kachikwu and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, reportedly failed to extend formal invitation to Clark and other stakeholders who ought to be in the meeting held in Asaba, the state capital.
Clark was said to have planned PANDEF emergency general meeting in Effurun, Delta state, same day since members of his group including leader of PANDEF in Delta state, Professor Godini Darah, were not formally invited for the Kachikwu’s stakeholders meeting.
The Kachikwu’s stakeholders meeting which intend to create awareness on-going federal government initiatives in Niger Delta region, particularly on the modular refineries initiative, gas flare commercialization programmes, strategic implementation work plan, as well as collaboration with the State, was expected to have a cross section of PANDEF members.
However, while addressing the meeting in Effurun, Chief Clark, accused the federal government of undermining the people of the Niger Delta and the development of the region.
He warned that no form of tactic designed to frustrate the people of the region in their quest for justice and equity would weakened their zeal in the new phase of the struggle.
“In the prevailing circumstances, where agitation for better treatment are met with dastardly killings and deaths, it looks like we the people of the Niger Delta region are under a big siege.
“But we will continue to demand for our rights; we will continue to demand that the country practices true federalism, where the states have the right to fiscal autonomy and control, self management of their resources and development structured in accordance with the capacities and
capabilities inherent in each state.
“As I have often said, we will not be deterred because there can be no other way of defining enslavement than for a people, who do not produce a thing to enjoy it, while those who not only produce it, but also suffer the effects of the production, do not benefit at all.
“The federal government has, over the years, done things that will undermine the development of the Niger Delta region. The Oil-Basin Authorities that were recommended by the Willinks Commission, which was enshrined in the constitution to last for ten years was scrapped in 1966.
“During the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he established more basin authorities and classified them into various grades, which also determined how much largesse each one enjoyed. Ours
received less than what Sokoto-Rima Basin Authority, which was seen as grade one basin, received in terms of budgetary allocation.
“However, despite all these inactions by the federal government, I wish to thank the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) for its understanding and accepting to extend the ceasefire. I wish to assure the NDA and other such groups that the leaders, elders and PANDEF are working round the. clock to ensure that the federal government and indeed the state governments of the Niger Delta region do the needful”, he said.
Addressing the stakeholders meeting in Asaba, Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has urged the Federal Government to intervene in the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly.
“Where do we stand with the PIB?” Governor Okowa asked the Minister, adding, “it is something you have to put the President in the know because, if that bill is not passed next year, the National Assembly will have to start afresh, the whole process.”
While observing that the passage of the PIB will address most of the issues affecting the oil industry, the Governor commended Dr Kachikwu for directly engaging stakeholders in the oil industry, noting, “there is the need for constant interface between the oil companies and the communities, we need to consolidate on the peace we have now; there should be sincerity and openness in our dealings.”
He also, stated that oil companies have no reason not to have operational offices in their areas of operation and called on the Federal Government to prevail on the companies for them to relocate their headquarters or operational offices to their areas of operations.
“There is no reason why their operational offices should not be here (areas of operation), it is important, it will also, impact on our Internally Generated revenue and the psychological effect that you have to move to states outside your areas of operations is not fair, the Federal Government should have a time lag for the oil companies to move to their areas of operations,” he said.
Speaking, Dr Kachikwu had said the stakeholders meeting was important as a Memorandum of Understanding which will take care of issues discussed would be prepared and time line for its implementation set.
He commended traditional rulers and their subjects for maintaining peace in the region, disclosing that 10 companies have applied to build modular refineries in Delta State while work at the Gas City project, Ogidigben would soon commence as efforts are on to get more investors in the various sections of the project.
“We are bringing back the financiers of the Gas City Project, we want to also, let you know that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources have not given out contract for pipeline protection, the Maritime University is on course and we believe that by August/September next year, academic activities will commence, the Federal Government has released N1 billion for the project, President Muhamadu Buhari is committed to ensuring that things are done right for Nigerians,” he said, assuring that efforts are also on to make the sea ports in the state viable.