Stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have called for a sustainable plan for the economic development of the oil-rich region.
Some stakeholders who spoke with The Tide, during a dialogue forum on peace and stability in Ogoniland held at the Atrium Event Centre, in Port Harcourt at the weekend, advocated for an economic frame work that would help in articulating the productive sectors of the Niger Delta economy.
An economic expert, Dr Chuks Ofulue, who spoke in an interview with The Tide at the event, decried the absence of sustainable economic plan in the Niger Delta , which has made the economy of the region to remain unproductive.
Ofulue, who is the Chief Economist of the BRACED Commission said, despite the presence of intervention of policies such as, the Niger Delta master plan, Amnesty plan, Ministry of Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) among others, the region has remained grossly underdeveloped.
According to the economist, most of the economic policies in the Niger Delta are mere poverty alleviation programmes without any sustainable prospect of development in the region.
He called on the leaders and stakeholders in the region to think beyond oil and embrace other means of economic development such as agriculture, industrialisation, manufacturing, among others.
Ofulue, who delivered a topic on: “Economic Empowerment and Alternative Livelihood Option for Ogoni”, said the Ogonis have been victims of oil exploration in Nigeria and called for the enactment of laws to promote local ownership of oil and its accruing revenue.
He also called on the Ogonis to take advantage of their arable land for agricultural artivities.
Also speaking, an academic, Dr Lebatan Ndegwe, said the major cause of confliction in Ogoni, was as a result of the destruction of the natural means of livelihood of the people leading to poverty and unemployment.
Ndegwe who was the key discussant at the event, called for dialogue and constructive engagement among Ogoni stakeholders as a means of promoting peace and stability in the area and Niger Delta region in general.
Other stakeholders who spoke at the event commended the Academic Associate Peace Work and the UK government for organizing the programme.
NUPENG Decries Poor State Of East/West Road
The National Union of Petroleum, Energy and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has expressed concern over the deplorable state of the East/West Road and called on the Federal Government to fix the road to alleviate the plight of its users.
Chairman of the Port Harcourt zone of NUPENG, Comrade Mina Samuel, who raised the concern in Port Harcourt at the weekend, said the poor state of the road has affected the smooth operation of its members who now find it extremely difficult to ply the route .
He said the damaged portions of the road had made its members prone to accidents and other hazards because of the difficulties of conveying heavy trucks with products.
“The poor state of the East/West road has become worrisome to our members and other road users. It’s regrettable that the road which is a major route to the economic hub of the nation is abandoned, it’s a pathetic situation to see stranded commuters in heavy traffics on the road on daily basis, I want to use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to urgently fix the road and save the lives of its users”, he said.
The NUPENG chairman said the fixing of the road would not only avert accidents but also save man hour and generate more revenue for the government.
Some tanker drivers who spoke with The Tide during a visit to the road said the damaged spots and deep craters particularly within the Akpajo/Refinery axis had caused severe obstructions to them while conveying product-laden trucks.
“We face serious challenges everyday to drive through the road, sometimes our trucks fall along the way and this is very risky because of possible explosion. We want the government to repair the road to save the road users from the challenges they face everyday. A journey of just 40 minutes now takes two to three hours, the suffering is too much,” one of the tanker drivers said.
Insecurity: IPMAN Seeks Protection Of Filling Stations
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has raised alarm over the incessant security threats and robbery attacks on filling stations in Rivers State.
Rivers State Chairman of IPMAN (Port Harcourt depot), Comrade Emmanuel Inimgba, raised the alarm while speaking with The Tide during an interview in Port Harcourt at the weekend.
He said filling station owners are now endangered species as their investments are now targets of robbery attacks, noting that the ugly trend has negatively affected their businesses.
He said the use of POS had assisted to an extent but filling stations were still prone to robbery attacks especially in the night.
Comrade Inimgba further hinted that filling station business was capital intensive as most of the members of the association obtained loan facilities from banks and are under obligation to pay back.
The IPMAN chairman, who commended the efforts of the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike towards promoting security in the state, pledged the commitment of the association in the area of security and appealled to the state government to create a special security unit to protect the investment of filling station owners. According to him, it is only in a conducive and peaceful environment that the filling station owners can render effective services to the public.
He also expressed concern over the poor state of refineries in the country, particularly the Port Harcourt Refinery which he noted was in a state of comatose.
Comrade Inimgba, urged the Federal Government to revamp all the ailing refineries and build more modular refineries in the Niger Delta region to deliver effective services and create gainful employment for the youths in the region.
Ahead of the yuletide, he said the independent marketers, as key stakeholders in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, were poised to render effective services and urged the relevant agencies to ensure product availability during the festive season to avoid scarcity and hoarding of products.
He also assured to give all the independent marketers fair treatment in the lifting of products.
Don Wants Stiffer Penalties Against Illegal Bunkering
A university don, Dr Steve Wordu, has canvassed stiffer penalties as part of measures to curb the menace of illegal bunkering and oil pollution in the Niger Delta.
Dr Wordu, who disclosed this in an interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt at the weekend said the activities of oil bunkering and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta had become most alarming and worrisome thereby requiring urgent attention.
He noted that, apart from the damage inflicted on the natural environment as a result of oil bunkering and pipeline vandalisation, lives were also lost in the process.
“Illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalisation have caused severe pains to the people of the Niger Delta. The acts have continued unabated and it’s quite regrettable that no stiffer measures have been put in place to tackle the menace.
“The Niger Delta environment is under permanent attack and the people are losing their natural means of livelihood. Many lives have been lost as a result of pipeline explosions. These are pathetic situations that need to be properly addressed.”
Dr Wordu, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Sociology at the University of Port Harcourt, commended the efforts of some security agencies such as the Navy and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC) in tackling illegal bunkering, but called for a more proactive approach and punitive measures to give a lasting solution to the menace.
He also advocated for an intensive environmental awareness campaign in the Niger Delta, noting that most of the damage done to the environment were as a result of ignorance.
“There is need for a new awareness towards the environment; the indiscriminate burning and wastage of oil and gas reserves and other natural resources is a disservice to the existence of the people of the Niger Delta who depend 100 percent on their natural environment for their daily survival,” he said.
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