In what seemed a serious soul-searching, the Federal Government Monday reappraised the hydra-headed Niger Delta crisis and submitted that negligence on the part of oil companies operating in the area led to severe environment problems like oil spillage, gas flaring, water and air pollution, which in turn engendered the current youth restiveness in the region.
The government, through top federal officials, including Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Ufot Ekaette, the Minister of State, Godsday Orubebe and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Y.A. Abdullahi also accused the oil firms in the Niger Delta of falling short of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) to their host communities, especially in the area of protecting the people from the hazards posed to them by the companies’ crude exploration activities.
The officials, who spoke at a consultative meeting on the region’s environment- related challenges tagged : “Moving the Niger Delta Environmental Agenda Forward,” disclosed the Federal Government’s intention to move beyond mere talkfest on the Niger Delta environment issues to tackling them head-on.
However, elder statesman and renowned accountant Senator David Dafinone, has described the current state of the Niger Delta as “disturbing, “ laying the blame for it at the doorsteps of the nation’s past leaders who, according to him, failed to address the Niger Delta question “in a holistic way.”
Specifically, Dafinone, who spoke Monday in Lagos at the launch of a biographical work titled Dafinone: An Uncommon Life written in his honour by Dr. Udu Yakubu as he turned 82, said the Federal Government’s failure to effectively act on the Willink Commission of 1958 made the Niger Delta problem to fester, which haunts the nation to this day.
He stressed that resorting to military action in the region would not solve the problem.
His words: “It is my considered opinion that the force of arm may not solve the situation. They need to go to the round table to dialogue to resolve the issue. From 1962, I worked closely with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and at one of the conferences held in the north, he categorically stated that those Nigerians who say the Niger Delta is out of their reach or who say that the Niger Delta is not in their backyard, hence they cannot say anything must not forget that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a State, and a breakdown in one part of the country may affect the whole nation. That is what we have been experiencing. “
Dafinone also took a swipe at the current political dispensation, describing it as a “militarisation of democracy.”
He said this approach had bogged down Nigeria, stressing that the nation needed to restructure in line with true federalism to attain its full potential.
Quoting copiously from various authorities ranging from United States’ President Barack Obama to the poet Lord Alfred Byron and economist Adam Smith, Senator Dafinone said the only enduring legacy the current crop of Nigerian leaders could leave for generations yet unborn was the enthronement of good governance, where the popular will of the people prevailed and where charity and brotherhood were held in esteem.
The federal officials on their part said the violence in the Niger Delta region could be traced to the people’s vexation over environment degradation and neglect.
Ekaette said the consultative meeting was convened so that all stakeholders in the Niger Delta could proffer ways of checking environmental degradation in the region.
His words: “Over the years, there has been a near total neglect or failure to diligently integrate environmental concerns into oil exploration and production activities by the oil companies. This region is heavily polluted due to oil spillage, sabotage, pipeline vandalisation and emission from gas flaring.
“It is not enough to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) especially with the people who do not understand the meaning of MoU. Sometimes, the terms of the MoU are not kept and at the other times, the terms of the MoU are reversed.
“Oil waste pits and hazardous waste dumpsites abound in the region while untreated industrial effluents, solid and municipal wastes are discharged with little concern about the environmental impacts.
“The on-going agitation in the region includes quest for a better environment gravely affecting peace and security in the region. Unfortunately, youth restiveness has assumed a high level of criminality in many instances and the primary cause cannot be removed from the gross neglect by the oil companies and allied industries to the yearnings of communities, lack of basic infrastructure and employment opportunities and the degradation of the environment on which the rural people depend for their sustenance.”
Orubebe said the current difficulties in the Niger Delta area was as a result of the “inactions” of its past leaders to chart a course for its environmental development.
He said it was high time the Ministry networked with relevant stakeholders to solve the problems.
His words: “It is worthy of note that oil, which is the major source of revenue for Nigeria, is one of the primary roots of the insecurity in the region because of its attendant negative impacts on the environment and natural resources. This is as a result of the negligence of the oil companies in addressing issues of environmental pollution in oil production.
“As a result, today, the Niger Delta is a place of frustrated expectations and deep-rooted mistrust…many years of neglect and conflict have fostered a siege mentality, especially among youths who feel they are condemned to a future without hope and see violence as a strategy to escape deprivation.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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