At last, the Federal Government talks with Niger Delta stakeholders, including militants, who have been bombing oil assets to draw attention to challenges in the oil region, begin tomorrow.
The talks would see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo leading a high powered delegation of the Federal Government to visit some states in the Niger Delta. States to be visited are Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, said the visit was not a substitute for dialogue.
A statement from the Office of the Vice President, yesterday, stated that government was committed to an effective dialogue with Niger Delta leaders.
“In further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, will be visiting a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta States starting on Monday, January 16, 2017, when he travels to Delta State”, the statement said.
“At a later date to be announced soon, the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States.
“At these visits, the Vice President will lead high-level delegations of the Federal Government that will interact with leaders and representatives of the oil-producing communities in continuation of ongoing outreach efforts of the Buhari administration towards a long lasting and permanent resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.
“The Buhari presidency is fully committed to having an effective dialogue and positive engagement that will end the crisis in the oil-producing areas, and believes that these visits would further boost the confidence necessary for the attainment of peace and prosperity in the areas and the Nigerian nation in general”.
"We stand on dialogue"
Clark, last night, speaking on the development, said the PANDEF was not against the decision of President Muhammdu Buhari to send Osinbajo to the Niger Delta to meet with the people and explore ways of resolving the crisis in the region.
The Niger Delta leader, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on phone, said: “The visit is not a substitute for dialogue and it is not a question of personality conflict because there is no conflict between the Federal Government and PANDEF.”
He urged militants, who listened to the leaders of the region and suspended hostilities, to maintain the ceasefire.
“Nothing should be done to cause any distraction during the visit of the vice president to the Niger Delta. There should be no bombing by any militant group, that is the plea of PANDEF," Clark said.
“Few individuals may have made statements, which so many people found intolerable. Muhammadu Buhari is the President of the whole country and he made it clear in his new year message that his government was going to embrace dialogue in the resolution of the crisis. We, PANDEF, stand on dialogue too and have been waiting for him since we met him on November 1, 2016, we have no reason to believe that he is not open to dialogue and, moreover, dialogue is not one month or one year affair, it can be continuous.
“We cannot say that because one person made one statement, it, therefore, means that the President is against dialogue, but if after his new year message, he is sending his Vice President to Niger Delta to visit the hot spots, we welcome it.”
Clark, who cancelled his trip to Abuja, weekend, because of Osinbajo’s visit to the region, went on: “I cannot be going to Abuja when he is coming here, I have cancelled my trip to wait and be around during his visit. I am in touch with Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu. PANDEF is well prepared for the VP’s visit. We have asked our people to receive the him, PANDEF is a body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of the Niger Delta. We have the youths, women,politicians, and entrepreneurs, name them in the body, it is not an APC or PDP group.
“PANDEF is going to play a leading role in the vice president visit to Niger Delta, we are in support of the visit. It will enable us have further discussion with him on our request for dialogue with the Federal Government. The visit is not a substitute for dialogue. What is more important is that the Federal Government and the people are dialoguing on the way out with sincerity on both sides. Our youths are willing to listen to us and we have told them to let peace reign, while we pursue dialogue with the Federal Government.
“No one should have the impression that the vice president is coming to visit the youths that are bombing oil installations. He is coming to Gbaramatu kingdom and going to other parts of the region, where he will meet with everybody.”
Separately, the Urhobo ethnic nationality in Delta State, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to dialogue with PANDEF. The position of the ethnic group is contained in a statement, entitled: “Urhobo position on Niger Delta Development Issues Versus Federal Government of Nigeria,” signed by the Urhobo Youth Leaders Association, UYLA, National President and Secretary, Messrs. Francis Arhiyor and Vincent Oyibode.
The group, which proposed a 23-point demand and 10-point dialogue issues, which it planned to hand over to PANDEF, stated: “Urhobo youths are in full support of PANDEF to negotiate with Federal Government to ensure sustainable peace in the region.”
It called for the immediate restructuring of the Amnesty Office to give equal opportunity to all ethnic nations in the Niger-Delta, adding: “We wish to quickly recommend that the security of the oil and gas facilities should be given to the youths of various ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.”
The 10-point dialogue issues suggested by the group include graduated increase in derivation from 13 per cent to 50 per cent over a five- year period; repeal and abrogation of all unjust and oppressive legislations, laws, policies that vest ownership and control of oil and gas resources in the Federal Legislature List in the 1999 Constitution as amended; and repeal and abrogation of all anti-federal and inequitable laws and policies related to the oil and gas industry such as pipelines, etc.
Others are repeal of the Land Use Act and return of all lands to communities, families, and individuals; repeal of the 1997 Inland Waterways Act that vests in the Federal Government the ownership of all rivers and waterways and their banks; review of oil bloc licenses to ensure majority equity ownership by Urhobo investors; the next review is due in 2017; passage of Petroleum Industry Bill into law by 2017; and minimum of 75 per cent of workforce in all oil and gas business in Urhobo land to be reserved for Urhobo indigenes and professionals.
UYLA also called for “relocation to Urhobo land of the head offices of all oil and gas companies doing business in Urhobo area, especially NPDC now in Benin to be relocated to Ughelli and Pan-Ocean Petroleum Corporation to be relocated to Oghara; compensation and rehabilitation via affirmative actions of the families of all the 1,000 persons, who perished in the October, 1998, pipeline fire in Idjerhe (Jesse) near Sapele.
Other demands are as follows: “An MOU to guarantee the step down of adequate energy/electricity generated in the gas turbines in Delta Power Station (Ughelli) and Ogorode Power Station (Sapele) to supply subsidized electricity for all communities and Local Government Areas in Urhobo Land. This type of Affirmation Action is to transform the economic, environment and make it juicy and attractive to investors in small- medium- and large-scale enterprises. Similar policies have been run by Shell and other MNOs in places like Shetland (Scotland).
“MOU with Utorogu Gas Plant, the biggest in West Africa, for supply of subsidized and uninterrupted electricity to all communities in Ughelli South and Udu Local Government Areas, which jointly host the facility. It is cruel and oppressive on the part of the Nigeria Gas Company that the gas processed in Utorogu is piped through the Escravos-Lagos gas grid to industries in Ogun and Lagos State in Nigeria and thence to the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Ghana yet the immediate host communities have not had steady electricity supply since 1989 when the facility was opened. This injustice has to stop.
Ports and waterways
“Construction of Okwagbe Inland Port approved by the Federal Ministry of Transport several years ago; return of Sapele Port to civil use by taking it over from the Navy, development of Warri Port to boost maritime business; dredging of Escravos Bar to admit larger ocean liners to Delta ports of Warri, Burutu, Sapele and Koko. The Escravos Bar facility was built in the early 1960s by the government of the First Republic, thanks to the patriotism of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the then Minister of Finance.
“Clean-up and restoration of silted and weed-choked rivers and waterways in Urhobo Land, especially Ethiope River, Warri River, Forcados River, Owahwa-Esaba River, Egiegi-Oleri Creek, Okpare-Ughelli Creek, Eghwu-Arhavwarian River, Gbaregolor- Okwuama Creek, Ogunu-Ughoton-Sapele Creek.
Industry and agriculture
“A buy-back or genuine privatization of Delta Steel Company (DSC), Ovwain-Aladja to revamp economic activity and generate employment, saying: “About 80 ancillary industries were planned with DSC and their location/siting was to spread from the DSC area to Patani along the River Niger. This plan of multiple enterprises should now be implemented in order to stimulate economic recovery in the Western Niger Delta.
“Setting up of Central Bank of Nigerian (CBN) and Bank of Industries (BoI), a stimulus Fund to support investment in small and medium scale enterprises in Urhobo Land to absorb thousands of unemployed persons and create innovation and inventions.”
Also in their list is: “Special Federal Stimulus Fund for agriculture to boost production of food-crops such as cassava, plantain, sweet potato, fisheries, and rice as well as cash/industrial crops such as palm, raphia palm, coconut, mango, orange, Ogbono, kola nut, etc.
“Upgrading of the Otegbo sub-station of the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research in Ughelli South LGA to a full-fledged research institute to support agriculture research and industrial production of oil palm and rafia palm for palm produce, bottled palm wine, yeast, ethanol and other derivatives”.
Highways and railways
“They dualisation of Sapele-Eku-Abraka-Agbor Federal Road, the oldest motorway in southern Nigeria, dualisation of Effurun-Eku federal road; construction of Egini-Esaba-Ophorigbala- Gbekebor-Burutu federal highway to link Udu, Ughelli South and Burutu LGAs to the Warri-Effurun economic axis; construction of Otor-Udu-Oghior-Okolor Inland, Ogbe-Udu-Okolor Waterside road; dualisation of Ughelli-Okpara-Otu-Jeremi- Okwagbe-Egbo-Ide road, dualisation of Ekakpamre-Otor-Udu-Egini- Ovwian road; and dualisation of Ughelli-Agbarha- Otor-Orogun- Sanubi road”.