Bayelsa State Governor, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, Thursday said after 60 years of oil exploration and export from the Niger Delta, the region has nothing to show for it, stressing that, the region is the most neglected and underdeveloped in the world.
The Governor said, of all the states in the region, Bayelsa is the most abandoned by successive Federal Governments. He said though his administration had done so much to place the state on the path of prosperity, the state's treacherous terrain makes development challenging.
He said most oil terminals in the region, including the oil terminals in Bayelsa State where oil was first struck in commercial quantity in 1956, regrettably remain inaccessible to motorists.
The Governor lamented that the Federal Government and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) plunder the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta region, to develop other parts of the country at the expense of the oil producing communities of the region.
Governor Dickson stated this in Government House, Yenagoa when the Joint National Assembly Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, led by its Chairman, Senator Bashir Marafah visited him.
He noted that, Nigeria has been unfair and unjust to the oil producing communities over the years, despite the region’s massive contribution to the socio-economic stability and global prominence of the country. He said while Oloibiri, where oil was first discovered in commercial quantities and other oil producing communities promoted Nigeria to a regional and world power, has nothing to show for it, other parts of the federation are wallowing in opulence!
Dickson in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Francis Ottah Agbo, believes for Nigeria, to be sustainable, it must be founded and built on justice, fairness, equity and the best way to do it is to make the Niger Delta have considerable control over its resources!
The Governor, who commended the decision of the National Assembly Committee to visit the oil producing host communities, described the Host Communities Bill, under consideration, as a golden opportunity for the present leadership of the National Assembly to redress the long oppression of the oil producing communities.
He calls on the Federal Government and the IOCs to appropriately compensate Bayelsa and indeed the Niger Delta by making them have more control stake in the oil resource because according to him, what the Federal Government carved out as Oil Blocs are actually the ancestral properties of the oil producing communities.
While assuring the NASS Joint Committee of the preparedness of the state Government to sensitize and mobilise the people to present their views during the proposed public hearing for the bill, Governor Dickson called on the National Assembly to support the clamour for OICs doing business in Bayelsa State to relocate their headquarters to Yenagoa, the state capital!
Governor Dickson also told his audience that his administration has made enormous investments in ensuring the security of lives and property in the State, as well as creating the enabling environment for the oil companies to operate unhindered, emphasizing that, despite that, the oil companies, who are prime beneficiaries of government's investment in security, play no role in the economic development of the state, "they employ nobody and give no contracts, but rather pay taxes to other states" thereby stifling the local economy!
He said: "The Host Communities Bill under consideration is a golden opportunity for the present leaders of the National Assembly to redress the long records of unfairness, neglect and oppression of the oil producing communities.
"Oil producing states and communities need support, and I assure you that our people will be fully mobilized whenever your committee is ready for a public hearing. We will sensitizeour people, communities and groups to make their views known.
I also call on the National Assembly to support the quest for oil producing companies to relocate to their catchment areas. You may be surprised that even over 60 years of taking oil from our communities, no IOC is located here. In other words, they do not contribute to the local economy and this is unfair to our people because we feel the brunt of oil exploration! Today, the Niger Delta is the most neglected region and Bayelsa State is the most underdeveloped in the region.
The entire Bayelsa is below sea level with the most treacherous and difficult terrain to develop...
After over 60 years of oil production, after sustaining Nigeria's economy, we still do not have roads linking oil terminals. Nigeria is a funny country..!
“So we know the investments that we are making, and yet the oil companies who are prime beneficiaries play no role in our economic development, they employ nobody from here. They give no contracts but pay taxes to other states. In other parts of the world, you don't hear people going to build refineries in states and places several hundreds and thousands of kilometers away from where the crude is coming from. It is only in Nigeria that you hear that. Houston is the oil and gas capital because around that vicinity, you see all the oil wells and companies located”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the National Assembly Joint Committee, Senator Bashir Marafah, who had led members of the committee to visit some oil producing communities expressed concern over the plight of the communities, noting that, the visit has exposed them to the real problems facing the communities.
He stated that, it is the desire of the leadership of the current National Assembly to ensure that, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law before the end of the year, assuring that, members of the committee will do everything within their powers to facilitate its passage.