The Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA) has described as a step in the right direction, the Federal Government’s historic directive that oil companies must relocate their corporate headquarters to the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta region.
It noted that the directive, which was conveyed by the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on March 2 this year, during his equally-encouraging stakeholders’ consultation tours to all states of the Niger Delta, would ensure a lasting peace in the region.
IPA, in an online statement on Tuesday by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees (BoT), Maj.-Gen. Paul Alaowei-Toun; President of Homeland Chapter (Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States), Iniruo Wills; and President of Lagos Chapter, Elaye Otrofanowei; described the directive as the strongest signal in many years that the Federal Government had sincerely begun to address the age-old challenges of the Niger Delta region from the roots, rather than the usual cosmetic approach of trying to dust off the symptoms on the surface.
It said: “The presidential directive answers one of the cardinal demands of petroleum host communities over the last half-century. For the oil producing and heavily oil-polluted communities and states in the Niger Delta, this might be the most authentic evidence of the Nigerian local content policy that was recently enacted into law but is yet to be of much practical value to our people’s lives and local economies in the region.
“Hopefully, the directive will also mark a departure from the mutually counter-productive tactics of seeking to suppress agitation and its regrettable ramifications by military might.
“Although the Federal Government’s directive, even upon complete implementation, will not be the final solution to the Niger Delta question, it will be of tremendous benefit to Nigeria and to the Niger Delta, due to the significant impact it will have on the region in terms of social and economic empowerment, restoration of the crucial peaceful atmosphere for smooth oil and gas operations and the consequent sustainability of the substantial national revenues flowing from the region and its coastal treasures.
“The speed and commitment with which the directive will be implemented and facilitated by all stakeholder segments are matters of critical national importance and urgency. The momentum must not only be maintained but maximised as well.
“It is highly incumbent on all key stakeholders and drivers to act promptly and decisively towards immediate implementation of the Federal Government’s directive.”
The Ijaw professionals also looked primarily to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Emmanuel Kachikwu, in his usual energetic manner, to drive an accelerated process for the relocation of all oil and gas companies to their areas of operation.
IPA noted that the relocation should affect the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), its various subsidiaries (NAPIMS, NETCO, HYSON, IDSL, etc.) and the relevant regulatory/monitoring and capacity building agencies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which it said had all curiously remained at a dysfunctional distance far from the geographical centres of their operations and mandates.
It said: “We trust that the industry operators, especially but not restricted to the multinational oil companies, will cooperate fully and swiftly on this declared thrust of the Government of Nigeria.
“It is also our minimum expectation from the indigenous operators that they will follow suit, moreover as they are all beneficiaries of the petroleum industry indigenisation or Nigerian-local content policy and in particular recent divestments of oil mining leases and marginal fields.
“The people of the Niger Delta region and the rest of Nigeria look forward to this.”
IPA also admonished home governments of the oil companies to take all measures to actively encourage their corporate nationals to comply with this directive of the government of Nigeria.
The oil firms were asked to start to address the grave and intolerable hardships and losses they had continuously inflicted on the people and communities in the Niger Delta region for about sixty years.
Ijaw professionals said: “We urge, as a matter of urgent responsibility, the governors of the affected states in the Niger Delta, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to seize the moment now and work together and with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, to facilitate the actualization of the directive.
“This should include an immediate and mutually coordinated short to medium term infrastructure and amenities plan, with clearly defined stakeholders’ commitments on funding and other enablers. Such a strategic facilitation plan will be of immense value towards bringing the Federal Government’s visionary directive to quick fruition.
“Our governors and other key actors, including leading professional bodies and genuine stakeholder platforms, should commit themselves to this opportunity and challenge, with the target of ensuring that the relocation of all oil and gas companies is consummated within the next six to twelve months, while arrangements for perfecting their settling down continue for such further time as may be expedient.
“IPA commits to collaborating with these vital governmental and non-governmental institutions and mobilising its wide membership, expertise and leverages towards the fulfilment of this potentially-redefining and transformative-presidential directive.”
Members of the association also stated that they were studying with keen interest, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) that had just been released by the Federal Government, in its bid to revitalise the Nigerian economy.
IPA added that part of the proceeds of the planned divestments should be to fund and underwrite the critical infrastructure needs of the Niger Delta.