At times one strongly feels to just stop bothering himself with the Niger Delta, its interesting people, and their peculiar ways. How else can anyone describe the manner in which the Niger Delta leaders, especially the bunch that calls themselves Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have swallowed this modular refinery bug hook, line and sinker, if not to say it actually depicts what these so called leaders of the region really are- naive or rather very shallow and at best criminally selfish?
No doubt, the idea of building modular refineries across the region as originally conceived by the NNPC and Ministry of Petroleum was sound reasoning, very practicable, and demonstratively a true paradigm shift for the good. It was supposed to an NNPC project initiative as part of its measures to pacify the agitating people of the region.
However, the project has since been hijacked and distorted beyond recognition. The way we are going about the initiative is simply dancing around the real problem and creating a new crop of billionaires without addressing the infrastructure development issues at the core of the Niger Delta agitation.
How can these self-acclaimed leaders turn everything into cheap politics by saying things they are not competent to speak on? Since when has building a modular refinery become synonymous with infrastructure development? So what is all this noise about putting toy refineries in a few locations across the Niger Delta as the panacea for the correction of the region’s development imbalance? Is modular refinery a development or service infrastructure?
How is the building of modular refineries in each state going to stop illegal refining, pipeline tampering, and crude oil theft in the region? What has the building of modular refineries got to do with rehabilitating former militants most of whom are pure illiterates?
Take my home state of Delta for example: how many modular plants will be built that can take care of the interests of all the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, Isokos, Ndokwa and other sections of the state? Or will the government build one modular plant in Gbaramaturu and assume it has pacified the Itsekiri man in Escravos or Ugborodo or the man in Afesiere and Eremu or Utagba-Ogbe?
Haba! We should be more intelligent and better coordinated than this.
Why is the region not seeing this modular refinery chant as diversionary and, at best, bait to ensnare them so that while we scamper to get one module installed in our individual areas, our collective enemy would have peaceful and unhindered access to continue what they know best to do in the Niger Delta - plundering oil resources to develop other sections of the country and also fund illicit activities against our people?
See the Ogoni cleanup exercise, with all the hype and noise; what is happening to it? Walai, my people are destroyed for lack of deep insights into how the central government and some people from other sections of the country perceive them.
How did we get to this point of modular bug? Let me now tell you: We got here because of what the federal government calls “illegal refining” and pipeline vandalism and so to stop the ‘kporfire’ refining by vandals in the Niger Delta, those who live in Abuja, in their wildest imagination, think when you establish one modular refinery in each state, the problem will be solved. You see how small they are in their mind and so it’s not surprising why there’s so much confusion in the entire idea.
As originally thought out, the entire idea was meant to let the fleet of “illegal refineries” across the creeks and other areas in the region become “legal artisanal refineries” by training those who hitherto constituted “nuisance” to the nation’s oil infrastructures in the Niger Delta.
Question: so who are those from the oil communities that are forming the operating partnership with the NNPC and foreign investors? If the entire idea was to stop illegal refining, pipeline vandalism, and crude oil theft from oil facilities in the region, one would have expected that the various Niger Delta state governments should as the first step, taken definite actions to know the previous illegal operators with a view to rehabilitating and properly training/orienting them for the organized operation that the modular project would entail.
But up till date, no single person - boy, man or even woman - has been asked to submit himself/herself as one of the people operating the battery of illegal refineries across the oil producing and pipeline areas of the Niger Delta including parts of Abia and Imo states that are also oil producing.
Maybe their idea is that the plants would be a social service infrastructure, you see where the self-deceit lies? Refineries whether modular or otherwise are pure business ventures and should be left for serious-minded private investors and technocrats. If the federal or state governments want to enter into partnership with any investor, well and fine, but that should not replace provision of social infrastructures in those areas.
Whosoever thinks that few modular refineries in the Niger Delta would make oil host communities and indigenes become fanatical about a fresh sense of ownership; deep sense of commitment and responsibility for protecting all the Nigerian oil assets in their environment, hence eradicating the ugly era of “pipeline vandalization and oil spills” and saving the Nigerian government the current daily loss of huge sums of money, should actually take up a bed in “Aro” because he needs sanity checks.
And just look at the tragedy of the stupidity of the self-acclaimed Niger Delta leaders: Recall that the Dangote Group’s Executive Director, Stakeholders’ Relations/Corporate Communications, Alhaji Ahmed Mansur, recently in Abuja announced that Dangote 650,000 barrels per stream day capacity refinery currently under construction in Lagos would come on stream by the end of 2018. The refinery’s daily production capacity would be over 200 per cent of the current total domestic demand of petroleum products in Nigeria, and Dangote is even targeting to take over the entire West and Central African market with the surplus from our domestic consumption.
So where do you factor-in the economic and investment sense in applying monies that could do better things to enhance the quality of life of our people in terms of developing sustainable people-oriented socio-economic infrastructures across the region to this modular craze that should outrightly be private-sector driven? If you ask me, I would refer you to Ibeto Cement and other modular cement factories to find out what happened to them with the coming of Dangote Cement in Obajana.
Abeg, a word is enough for the wise!
Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja and can be reached at [email protected].