‘Why Rivers Should Pioneer Indgenous Oil Production’

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I don’t like to talk about Nigeria content; I talk about indigenous content. We must start with the indigenes before we talk Nigeria. We can’t just sit down here and see our people dying of hunger. Rivers State needs special development intervention.

One of the most critical reforms anticipated in the Nigeria oil and gas industry is the direct participation of oil producing states in the process of oil exploration.

This proposition is anchored on the fact that the direct participation of oil producing states in oil exploration will make up for the long years of denial of the oil producing states in active involvement in the Nigeria oil and gas industry.

With over 90% of Nigeria revenue churning out of oil through the committed resources of the oil producing states, the industry had been dominated by the interest of foreign and international oil companies, and an overriding foreign concern.

Apart from the clamour for improved allocation from the federal account, another potent form of demand for equity and justice in the Nigeria oil economy, is for the oil producing states to leverage on their national resources to better the economic condition of the people who have suffered untold deprivation in the oil sector over the years. At the fore of the demand for indigenous oil exploration and independent participation of oil producing states in oil and gas exploration, is Rivers State, which is regarded as the repository of the Nigerian oil and gas resource.

In line with this development, the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, has established a state owned oil company into the objective of fully utilising the opportunities that exist in the state as a major stakeholder in the industry.

The Rivers State Government-owned oil company is christened Treasurer Energy Resources. It was registered  in May 2009 as a private public company. It draws its name from the natural Sobriquet accorded the state in the country of Nigerian states as the Treasure Base of the Nation.

No mean personalities from the state, and big names in the Nigerian oil industry, such as Chamberlain Oyibo, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Dr. Eddie Nwikina, a former General Manager, Nigerian Content with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) are the chairman and Managing Director of the company, respectively.

According to the Managing Director of the company, Dr. Nwikina who spoke with The Tide On Sunday in an interview in Port Harcourt recently, it is an overdue for Rivers State to take lead in indigenous oil exploratory activities in Nigeria.

In his avid explanation, the need for this revelation in the oil and gas sector, dates back to the early years of Niger Delta struggle when questions were asked on resource control and the equitable distribution of resources in Nigeria. “The  state has started asking questions on the conservation and utilisation of Nigeria’s oil and gas reserve. Our people are not in the industry, especially in the top positions. To correct the mistakes, the government had seen the opportunity in the floating of a state-owned oil company. The purpose is to have a platform of developing skills in the industry”.

To participate actively, he said the government has to acquire oil fields and oil blocks of their own so as to effect the desired impact and enhanced participation in the bigger companies.

Throwing more light on the importance of the state-owned oil company in the economic development of the state, Dr. Nwikina hinted that; “Government is spending a lot of money on capital projects and need extra income to assist and complement development projects”.

The mandate of the company is not just oil, but involves the utilisation of the abundant gas deposit in the state for power generation and other related development advantages.

Dr. Nwikina regretted the fact that Rivers State was at the rear behind Bayelsa and Delta States that already has oil blocks, pointing out that oil and gas business started from the old Rivers State, which gave birth to Bayelsa State. The action of the oil producing states is further enhanced by the Petroleum Act which encourages indigenisation in the petroleum industry.

Dr. Nwikina attributed the high rate of joblessness among Niger Delta youths, to the morbid disinterestedness of the multinational in training and recruitment of Niger Delta youths in the industry. “For the past ten years the investment in the oil industry has declined, if the joint venture partnership had given priority to the training of Niger Delta youths, there would have been a breakthrough in the development of the region, employment in the oil industries should be targeted at oil producing states”.

The oil industry guru, further disclosed that the Rivers State-owned oil firm will stick to Nigeria content policy and federal government employment regulation and ensure that employment opportunities in the company is thoroughly localised. “I don’t like to talk about Nigeria content, I talk about indigenous content. We must start with the indigenes before we talk Nigeria. We can’t just sit down here and see our people dying of hunger, Rivers State need special development intervention”.

Dr. Nwikina’s career in the oil industry came through the benevolence of Shell who gave him a scholarship to Manchester University, England, where he acquire his Bachelor and doctorate degrees in Engineering. He worked in Shell at  different categories, ranging from manager Human Resource, and General Manager Local Content at which he retired. He was a pioneer staff of the Nigeria Fertilizer Company, NAFCON. He had been in the forefront of fighting for the benefit of Nigeria in the oil and gas industry. His ultimate dream for Rivers State is to be the Dubai of Africa.

 

Taneh Beemen