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Again, The Niger Delta Issue …A Call For Honest Dialogue

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Rather than abate, from little known Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the fresh insurgency in the oil rich Delta is giving birth to more and more groups. Although the leadership, profile and membership of such insurgent gangs still remain foggy, there are growing concerns that all may not be well in the area and by extension Nigeria.
When the NDA started its threats of attacking oil production facilities, it was dismissed with a wave of the hand until Agip and Chevron were hit in two separate attacks. Government’s immediate reaction was an order from the Commander-in-Chief, to the Military High Command to crush the militants.
That hurried reaction did not take into cognizance the currents and history of Niger Delta militancy, its threat to the economic profile of the country and how the Yar’Adua Presidency chose the amnesty option. It did not also consider the inherent danger such face-off, involving oil facilities and concomitant pollution would further endanger the environment and lives of the people. Also not put into proper perspective was the likelihood of civilian casualties, destruction of key public institutions and further aggravation of the crippling economic situation.
It was for all these that notable Nigerians called on the Federal Government to quickly consider and initiate dialogue, rather than use of force. They posited that such military posturing would rather than solve the impasse, aggravate it and return Nigeria back to the past when its oil production recorded its historical lowest.
Another option canvassed by many was a return to history, identify the wrongs associated with the forced amalgamation of 1914, and see how component parts of the ‘union’ today known as Nigeria would be made to have a sense of belonging and true nationhood. Appraising prevailing realities, influential Nigerians, like legal doyen, Prof. Nwabueze and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, called for the restructuring of the Federation, in line with prevailing realities, as the present federal system being operated has failed to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the stakeholders.
Such a restructuring should make for stronger and economically more viable states as opposed to bigger centre, which negates true federalism. In such circumstance, each federating unit shall be encouraged to create its own resource base, develop and manage such resources and pay tax to the centre, as opposed to the present situation where all states depend on the oil from the Niger Delta for their survival and monthly rush to Abuja for hand-outs.
Those notable Nigerians insist that every state in the Federation has sufficient resources to develop and manage for growth. The problem is the laziness created by the oil which States now consider their meal ticket.
The strongest argument is that the central government is too large, expensive, over-reaching, inspiring and indeed greedy in the distribution of national resources. Its powers should be divested to reflect the true tenets of federalism.
Some of these arguments were captured during the last national conference which produced a report that many believed could address some of the agitations today creating insecurity in the land. Many have therefore called on the Buhari Presidency to look at the report with a view to implementing it.
But the body language of the President does not portray any iota of urgency. In fact, the Presidency has not as much as commented on the various issues raised by well-informed Nigerians.
It is perhaps that silence that has evoked the recent call by a new militant group, for a referendum, to determine the sovereignty of Nigerians. From insisting that major oil companies left the Niger Delta and calls for a revocation of the oil blocs allocated to prominent Northern elites, the militants are today calling for resource control. The militants now insist that the Niger Delta should be allowed to manage its resources, bear the consequences of the environment and pay taxes to the centre. Alternatively, a referendum be conducted to ascertain whether the Niger Delta still wishes to remain in the Nigerian Federation.
Unfortunately, rather than address the danger which this new line of debate holds, some Northern Senators have again raised the question: Where was the money used in developing oil in the Niger Delta sourced from? Their argument was that proceeds from agriculture and other resources from other lands together formed the capital to develop crude oil in the Niger Delta.
Really? How much? In those years of the groundnut pyramids, the regions enjoyed nearly 100 per cent derivation and resource control while the centre survived on taxes even from oil palm produced in the South East and South-South areas.
Besides, the Federal Government did not unilaterally develop crude oil. It was counterpart funding with major oil production multi-nationals who capitalised on the unholy marriage to short-change the Niger Delta. In those days, the argument of the Northern elite was that oil was a gift from God and belonged to no one in particular.
With such mindset, virtually every military regime, predominantly headed by Northerners turned natives of the oil bearing states into beggars while resources accruing from oil sales were used to develop major Northern cities.
The question still remains, how much was voted to develop crude oil? How much was the cost of building Abuja alone? How much profit has the central government made from its investment?
Everywhere in the world, ownership of land also determines ownership of resources there in. Nowhere in the world are land-owners, totally denied ownership of the treasures buried beneath. It is only in Nigeria where land belongs to the Niger Delta people but the oil buried there in, for all.
With civilisation and education, those mundane arguments can no longer hold water. Reality is that government must re-negotiate the terms of engagement with land-owners or investors may reconsider new investments in more conducive climes.
Silence on the part of the Federal Government is no longer healthy to the debate. Government must take a position and determine next line of action to douse the impending rift. From the stand point of the new militant groups, nothing short of resource control will bring peace. This means putting the entire area at risk in the event of arms confrontation or guided attacks on oil facilities.
The Buhari Presidency should take urgent steps at addressing the growing insurgency in the South-South, the increasing protestations, and sense of marginalisation in the South-East, the pressing sense of insecurity caused by rampaging herdsmen in the South-West and bring an end to Boko Harm in the North-East.
All these are battles that must be fought and won using the lean resources available to government. Allowing such funds to be depleted even further on account of ego, shame and pride, or a hurried resort to armed combat would indeed be injurious to the nation and its people.
This is why the Buhari Presidency must heed the advice of statesmen that the report of the last National Conference be revisited or outright restructuring be initiated. That is the wise thing to do.
While this is awaited, the militants should realise that the planned war is not against the same people whose interest it professes to champion. That each attack further degrades the environment and the ecosystem and by extension further threatens the people’s occupation of fishing and farming.
They must therefore embrace cease fire and allow dialogue so as to let the conversation flow freely. It should not be all about threats and violence, sometimes, maturity and commonsense should play their roles.
My Agony is that the comments of some Northern Senators could incite violence, rather than abate it, for true dialogue to take place. That’s how greed drives people to self-destruction.
Perhaps, they should be told, “strength and wisdom are not opposing values. They complement each other,” according to former US President Bill Clinton.

Soye Wilson Jamabo

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Buhari Can’t Abdicate Role On Security To Govs, Wike Insists

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says it is unconstitutional for President Muhammadu Buhari to shift the power of securing lives and property of Nigerians to the state governors.
According to Wike, Mr President is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, and cannot declare that governors are in charge of security in their respective states.
Wike, while speaking at the commissioning of the 21-kilometre Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road in Etche Local Government Area of the state, yesterday, said such position suggests that the APC-led Federal Government has lost grip of strategy of how to tackle the troubling security issues, and make the country safe for Nigerians.
“Mr President, you’re the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You appoint Inspector General of Police (IG), you appoint the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, the Commissioner of Police (CP), Director of Department of State Service (DSS) and other heads of security. Which one do we appoint? How can people appointed by Mr. President be under me?”
He further said, “It is not only to borrow money for Nigeria that you’re in charge. You must, also, be in charge in other things including security. Who signed order 10? Is it the governors? It is not when things are going bad concerning security and you say you’re not in charge, and it becomes governors’ responsibility.”
Wike admonished the APC-led Federal Government to own up that it can no longer fulfil promises made to Nigerians, and also lead the country out of its present predicament.
According to Wike, when there is a failure, what makes leadership respectable is that such leader was able to accept its weakness publicly.
The governor pointed out that it was time Nigerians begin to compare the performances of PDP and APC governors in office.
He said, Mr. President was short of calling names of those governors who run to Aso Rock when they are supposed to stay in their states to see the needs of their states and people.
“Mr. President should have come out openly and said, my APC governors, stop worrying me. Go back to your states, and do your work. On that, I support him.
“Thank God, Mr. President knows that I am not one of those that go to visit him over one problem or the other. I, as the governor of Rivers State under PDP, you’ll never find me there”, he added.
In his remarks, the former Senate President, Senator David Mark, who performed the commissioning of the 21-kilometre Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road, noted the excitement expressed on the faces of the locals who are directly impacted by the project.
He noted that even those in opposition in the state have become so weak to have anything more to say against Wike, who was not only performing, but has remained as a strong pillar of the PDP.
“I told him I’ll be here because he loves his people. Politics and democracy is not about enriching one or two persons within a community. The Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road is project that will outlive everybody in this place. The legacy you’re leaving behind, Rivers people will not forget you. They will defend you, they’ll protect you and they will stand by you always.
“That is why you can walk tall. That is why you can jump into your car and go anywhere because you’ve shown them love. You’ve brought democracy to the people. PDP as a party is happy to have you. You’re one of the pillars of our great party.”
Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi said Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road connects part of Etche land to Omerelu, Apani and Omademe communities in neighbouring Ikwerre Local Government Area, and onwards to Imo State.
“This is the very first time a road is being constructed here along this axis. Prior to this time, this was merely an earth Road with gullies all over; it was something best suited for only the toughest 4 by 4 off road vehicles. Today, through the instrumentality of the governor of Rivers State, we now have a 10.3m wide 21km long road. 7.3m of this is the carriageway, which is flanked on either side by a 1.5m wide shoulder.
“9.3km of drainage is constructed for water discharge and 32 road signs installed to aid drivers, commuters and enhance safety in the area. With this road will come all the socio-economic benefits associated with good transportation access”, he added.

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Buhari Flags Off NLNG Train 7 Construction

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President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, charged that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Train 7 be delivered on time so that the Train 8 project can commence.
The President gave the charge at the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of the project in Bonny Island, Rivers State, yesterday.
The project is expected to increase NLNG’s current six-train plant capacity by about 35% from an extant 22 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MTPA) to 30 MTPA.
The foundation stone was laid on behalf of the President, who flagged the project virtually, by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, supported by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, represented by Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo; the Amanyanabo of Grand Bonny Kingdom, King Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, Perekule XI; Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari; the Chairman, NLNG Board of Directors, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, NLNG’s Managing Director/CEO, Engr. Tony Attah; and NLNG’s Deputy Managing Director, Engr. Sadeeq Mai-Bornu, amongst others.
Other dignitaries who graced the event are the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote; NLNG board of directors; NNPC board of directors; distinguished senators; members of the company’s Senior Management Team and other special guests.
Buhari urged the Board of Directors, management and staff of NLNG, the host communities, the Rivers State Government and other agencies of the Federal Government to continue to collaborate to ensure completion and eventual commissioning of the Train 7 project “safely and on time.
“As we flag off the Train 7 project, today, I look forward to the development and execution of more gas projects by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and indigenous operators, and more trains from Nigeria LNG to harness the over 600trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves we are endowed with.
“Let me use this opportunity to commend the shareholders of NLNG, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum, NNPC and the NCDMB and other stakeholders for very exemplary collaboration which has culminated in this great opportunity for Train 7.
“I want to thank the foreign investors for the confidence reposed in Nigeria, and assure all Nigerians and potential investors in the oil and gas sector that the Federal Government will continue to create the enabling environment in order to develop the sector and bring the full benefits of gas closer to our people,” he said.
Going down memory lane, Buhari recounted that the story of Nigeria LNG was one he had been “passionately associated with during the formative years of the project.”
He said, “As Minister of Petroleum Resources, I kicked off our first foray in LNG Business in 1978. At the time, it was already apparent that Nigeria was mainly a gas-rich country with a little oil!
“It, therefore, gives me great joy to see the organization transform from just a project in the early 90s to a very successful company with over 20 years of responsible operations and a steady supply of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) into the global market.
“This is proof that Nigeria has a great capacity to deliver value to the world by harnessing our natural resources”.
The President, therefore, congratulated NLNG and its shareholders – NNPC, Shell, Total, and Eni for proving that a Nigerian company can operate a world-class business safely, profitably, and responsibly.
Praising the consortium for clearly setting the stage upon which Nigeria’s vast gas resources would continue to grow well into the future, Buhari added that the focus of his administration is to boost the development of Nigeria’s abundant gas resources, strengthen the gas value chain, develop the much-needed infrastructure and enhance safe operations in the sector as outlined in the National Gas Policy of 2017.
“Through the Decade of Gas initiative, which I recently launched, we will transform Nigeria into a major gas and industrialized nation with gas playing the key role as a revenue earner, fuel for industries, and necessary feed for petrochemicals and fertilizer plants,” he said.
The President also expressed delight that the NLNG as the pioneer LNG company in Nigeria, has conscientiously proven the viability of the gas sector over the years, currently contributing about one percent to Nigeria’s GDP.
“NLNG has generated $114billion in revenues over the years, paid $9billion in taxes; $18billion in dividends to the Federal Government and $15billion in feed gas purchase.
“These are commendable accomplishments by the company’s 100 per cent Nigerian Management Team.
“With this level of performance, I can only hope that the company continues to grow to start with this Train 7 project but also positioning Nigeria to thrive through the energy transition,” he said.
In his address, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, described NLNG as a “blessing to the nation”, noting that it has positively complemented crude oil exploration by monetizing flared gas and yielding huge revenue to the nation and investors.
Sylva added that since NLNG became operational in 1999, the nation has recorded a drastic reduction in operational flare status from 65 per cent to 12 per cent.
“I boldly say that the groundbreaking of Train 7 is a guarantee to every stakeholder of more dividends in terms of further reduction in gas flaring, more revenue to the nation and shareholders, more job opportunities, especially at the construction phase and more social investments for the society,” he said.
The Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, applauded the shareholders, NLNG’s Board of Directors, and the company’s management for keeping the Train 7 dream alive.
He said the state government considered the project as a key economic enabler and committed to supporting both the project and the company.
In his welcome remarks, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari, commended the Federal Government for supporting the project and called for stakeholders’ support for the project. He added that support for NLNG will lead to immense benefits to Nigerians.
Also speaking, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NLNG, Anthony Attah, said Train 7 will increase NLNG’s overall capacity to 30million tonnes per annum (mtpa) from the current 22million mtpa, while further adding immense value to the nation and the people.
Attah noted that the project would stimulate the inflow of about $10billion FDI into Nigeria, create 12,000 direct jobs in Bonny Island and additional 40,000 indirect construction jobs.
He said the project would also further the development of local capacity and businesses through the 100 per cent in-country execution of construction works, fabrications and major procurement.
‘‘Nigeria has ridden on the back of oil for over 50 years, but with this Train 7 project Nigeria is now set and I believe it is now time to fly on the wings of gas,’’ he said.
The company took the Final Investment Decision (FID) for the project in December, 2019.
It proceeded to sign the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) Contracts with the SCD JV Consortium, comprising affiliates of Saipem, Chiyoda, and Daewoo, on May 13, 2020.
Train 7 Project is in fulfilment of NLNG’s vision of “being a global company, helping to build a better Nigeria.”
The project, upon completion, will support the Federal Government’s drive to generate more revenue from Nigeria’s proven gas reserves and further reduce gas flaring in the country’s upstream oil and gas industry.
The project is scheduled to span approximately five years.
NLNG is an incorporated Joint-Venture owned by four Shareholders, namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (49%), Shell Gas B.V. (25.6%), Total Gaz Electricite Holdings France (15%), and Eni International N.A. N.V. S.àr.l (10.4%).
It would be recalled that Buhari’s flag-off of the project came amid uneasy calm trailing last Thursday’s protest by the people of host Finima community.
The Finima picketing of NLNG in a peaceful protest was dislodged by suspected violent Bonny youths, resulting in injuries and burning of property belonging to Finima people.
The leaders of Finima community had, during the protest, vowed to fight on for recognition as lead host community and not to be treated as appendage of the larger Bonny Island.
The Spokesman for Finima and ex-Mobil staff, Dagogo Lambert Brown, told newsmen following the fracas, that led to nine injuries and property destruction that the alleged attempt by men from Bonny to intimidate them with violence would rather make Finima more determined.
“We are not fighting kingship issues or kingdom matters. We are not fighting Bonny people. We do not understand why they would come and attack their brothers who were conveying their justified grievances to the NLNG”, Brown stated
Finima elders also called on Federal Government, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the NLNG to intervene before things get out of hand, vowing they would not surrender their right to their ancestral home acquired to mount the gas trains and other sensitive facilities on the island if they won’t enjoy host benefits.

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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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.

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