“We travel together as passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace, preserved from annihilation only by care, the work and the life we give our fragile craft”.
Stevenson made the above remarks shortly before his death, he was drawing attention to the need for global environmental protection.
Unfortunately, environmental pollution has today remained one of the most contentious issues of global concern.
Contrary to Stevenson’s postulation, the story of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria seems to be one of the most ominous globally in terms of environmental pollution and gas flaring. In spite of its huge natural deposit of oil reserves, the Niger Delta is predominantly associated with a diminishing and blighted environment, with its teeming natives and inhabitants, displaced of sustainable livelihood.
The ugly trend has continued to draw the attention of stakeholders and pundits, with a view to addressing the development challenges in the oil rich region.
Engr Olu Anda Wai-Ogosu is one of such concerned patriots and key stakeholders who have lent his views on how to address the issues of oil pollution and environmental devastation in the Niger Delta.
The environmentalist and lecturer in the Institute of Geo Sciences, at the Rivers State University, spoke with The Tide in an exclusive interview in Port Harcourt at the weekend, and indentified some tactical flaws in Nigeria oil politics as being responsible for infrastructural deficit in the Niger Delta region.
He picked holes in the Joint Venture Operation, between the Federal Government and the International Oil Companies (IOCs)and said that the effrontery demonstrated by IOCs in slighting oil bearing and host communities, had the tacit connivance of the Federal Government.
He noted that the IOCs, were not operating in the country on their own volition, but at the instance of the Federal Government who was supposed to protect the interest of the host communities. “The actions of the IOCs are supposed to be subjected to international scrutiny of best practices, but they operate on double standards, and hide under the cover of the Federal Government. The joint venture is an international agreement, and in Nigeria, the Federal Government controls 60 percent while the IOCs control 40 percent.
“The stake of the oil bearing or host communities is subsumed under the agreement, but the Federal Government mostly fails to comply in due terms and depends on bail out by the IOCs. The Federal government, therefore, lacks the moral justifications to whip the IOCs to line in the process of institutional default,” he said.
Commenting on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the environmentalist, said the bill had suffered some defects as a result of vested interests and the intrigues of oil politics which is skewed to the detriment of the oil bearing communities. “The PIB, which was expected to address the burning issues in Nigeria oil sector has also met a brick wall. There are emphasies on financial benefits to the Federal Government and the IOCs, while the stakes of the host communities are not given due consideration. These communities have suffered the brunts of environmental pollution and they want assurance of sustainable livelihood. We are not sincere about the way we handle the environment,” he said. Wai-Ogosu who is the immediate past president of the Nigeria Environmental Society, also barred his mind on remediation activities by IOCs at polluted sites in the Niger Delta.
He pointed out that the IOCs were not practicing remediation in the Niger Delta, but adopted temporary palliatives to contain the spread of pollution.
“What the IOCs do is not remediation, they only try to cut the spread of the spills by scooping the top soil from where the spill has covered and deceive the larger public that they have remediated.
“Remediation is when you apply reasonable scientific and biological methods to ensure the depth of the spread of the hydrocarbon material is adequately removed from the soil,” he explained .
Explaining the effects of oil spillage on the natural environment, he said the effects depended on the size of the spill, the terrain and the natural resources. He explained further that oil spills extended to 200 kilometres away from where it took place, and in severe cases, its devastation can last for over 50 years, as was the case of Ebubu in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The university don also attributed lack of active participation of the Niger Delta region in the oil and gas sector to the “self discriminatory politics” played by the Niger Delta leaders which robbed them of their pride of place and justifiable entitlements in Niger oil politics.
“The oil and gas industry in Nigeria started in the Niger Delta in the late 50s when oil was struck on commercial quantity at Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State and later in Ogoni, but the region was not able to play key role in the sector because the leaders were not futuristic in their thinking.
“Self discrimination and the minority mentality affected their political alignment. The region was factionalised and operated in splinters; this is responsible for the total disconnect between capacity development and exploitation of resources in the region,” he said.
He noted that in the early 50s, the Ogoni area had become very vibrant in oil wealth but Ogonis were not involved in the acquisition of land for the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
He decried the fact that, “No purposeful attempt have been made in Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta to improve on capacity in both upstream and downstream sector of the oil and gas economy”.
The academic who teaches for free at the Rivers State University as his contribution to the development of the state, regretted that the few Niger Delta indigenes that owned oil blocks had it on political affiliation. He called for the liberalisation of oil blocks allocation to favour the oil bearing and host communities. “The minority mentality is still hunting the Niger Delta, we still do not realise that we need to position ourselves to take legitimate advantage of the oil resources at our domain; we have allowed the dominance of the Federal Government to over shadow us.
“We should be patriotic and stop fighting ourselves, our political leaders should know the limit between patriotic will and political will. Our representatives in the state and the National Assembly (NASS) should rise above self will and exert a high sense of service and social responsibility,” he stated.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, who was one of the earliest conservationist, Wai-Ogosu recognises the right to develop and use our natural resources, but detests the wastages and indiscriminate burning of the natural reserve which according to him, is the very foundation of life.
Surviving Economic Realities In 2020s
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th Century, in his famous apothegm said, “The only constant is Change”. Literally, whether change is desired or not is inconsequential as it occurs independently; devoid of assents or prior notice. And the earlier people prepared their mind for it, the better as it is inevitable. This is thus, a clarion demand for reprogramming the minds to adapt as it occurs. Not even resistance deters it except to be left behind; an unhealthy option.
Typically, the major and fastest agent of change is civilization which everyone profoundly cherishes. Nobody in their right senses will kick against civilization due to the comfort, speed and productivity it offers. However, the bad side of it is, the same pace it opens new opportunities to the sensitive minds, is also how it pushes out the indolent and conservative minds out of jobs and businesses.
For example, the evolution of modern computers; Central Processing Units (CPUs) and laptops sent conservative typists and typewriter-merchants that were insensitive to upgrade out of jobs and businesses. Similarly, online shopping has become the most utilised medium across the world thereby affecting daily sales of shop owners. Arguably, technological advancement is moving fast.
Presently, foodstuffs including fresh tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and even native cooked foods are ordered online and delivered with ease in Nigeria. Likewise, the usual taxi business which required people to board on the road is being overtaken by connected system which can access, negotiate variety of taxis in the comfort of the living rooms.
Churches are not left out as people in the comfort of their homes now actively participate in church services same way as onsite worshippers. In banking industry, higher volume of transactions are currently done virtual which reduces human activities in the banking halls alongside overhead costs. Of course, by design, banks are profit-oriented and not charity organizations, hence, will always switch over to most cost-effective system.
Conversely, the labour market is adversely affected as technology drops human activities thereby increasing unemployment ratios. Even those already in employment are likely to face more retrenchments as their services can be rendered cheaper and more efficiently through technological revolution.
For emphasis, on September 3, 2019, an energy firm, Oando Plc, sacked about 100 workers. Similarly, on November 21, 2019, First Bank of Nigeria recorded a mass sack of staff numbering over 1000 across the federation. The record goes on. The umbrella body of the workers; National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) threatened fire and brimstone to reverse the action.
Though the solidarity was commendable, unfortunately, NUBIFIE forgot the employers’ obligation to discharge employees is to be laid off accordingly. The union overlooked to do a feasibility study vis-à-vis the management’s unflinching action, without any panic against possible collapse of the bank by the volume of the retrenchment. This is a critical oversight.
For instance, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) can now withdraw and also collect deposits into customers account in few seconds. The implication is that scores of contract staff that mount the tellers may be drastically reduced to virtually zero. Believably, all banks are working in that directions which implies that more retrenchments are looming particularly in the banking sector in the new decade.
Realistically, NUBIFIE and other unions may not do much to counter the trend. This is because they cannot provide the funds to subsidize overhead costs; to secure their members’ jobs. Convincingly, the bank discovered an alternative mode to handle operations without such a crowd of employees. To call a spade, a spade, the sacks were no accidental discharge but necessitated by profit maximization which is its major goal.
Laudably, a leading financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA), recently recorded a massive recruitment drive of about 4000 new staff alongside promotion of 5000 existing staff members with inspiring increments. However, the truth must be told. Industrialized economy is rapidly succumbing to digitalized economy.
The top-secret is technological innovation that economically, efficiently handles human tasks. In other words, repositioning is crucial. A stitch in time they say, saves nine. Sensibly, those not considering modern economy are vulnerable to be victims of the contemporary economic dynamics. Another bitter truth is that government alone cannot provide the much needed jobs for the high number of unemployed population.
However, governments must obligatorily provide the enabling environments for businesses to thrive. Economy must be stimulated and made attractive for investors. And essentially, insecurity must be unrelentingly wrestled not merely by empowering security agents but creating jobs for unemployed populations alongside empowerment with skills acquisitions. Government must meet these critical demands.
Interestingly, the most striking feature of the new economic direction is that it can empower distressed persons from zero level to financial independence without capital unlike the phasing-out industrialized economy. Above all, it creates secure incomes alongside conventional vocations. Instructively, most of the capitalists in the developed economies do not survive by commonplace hustling but connected economy.
Thus, whilst it is ideal to have exciting new year resolutions, big dreams and accept nice predictions, efforts must be put in top gear to think outside the box. People should expediently, ardently consider realignment. By the rapidity of technological advancement in the world, it is obvious a lot of employments may be in danger.
The way out is to embrace the modern economy to run with the changes against the challenges. Connected economy, distinctively, thrives by merely building relationships and fostering connections, rather than assets (money) and stuffs as exists in industrialized economy. However, extreme caution is required as scammers have infiltrated digitalized economy knowing it is the new face of the world economy.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.
DPR Shuts 12 Gas Plants In PH
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has begun a shutdown of illegal gas plant and roadside retailers of Liquefied Petroleum (LPG) operating within Rivers State.
Addressing newsmen shortly after a surveillance operation in Port Harcourt, DPR’s Operation Controller, Port Harcourt Zone, Bassey Nkanga, disclosed that 12 illegal gas plants were sealed off across the sate
Nkanga said the sealed gas plants were operating without approval, license and unsafe environment.
According to him, this illegality must stop and no one is permitted to operate without license or approval, adding that they would be unsealed when they follow due process.
The Operation Controller explained that DPR was out to ensure that all gas operators in the State adhere to safety and health requirements as well as follow due process.
According to him, the department is taking audit of all gas operators across the state including roadside retailers.
He warned those transfilling gas products against the practice, describing it as illegal and highly risky, adding that the department will not condone such act.
He also urged operators of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to always consider the safety of people and environment during operations.
Nkanga further encouraged the use of LPG popularly known as cooking gas, saying it is safer and economical than kerosene.
Russia To Partner Nigeria On Gas, Power Development
The Russian Federation has expressed its readiness to partner the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the development of Nigeria’s upstream, gas and power sectors.
This was made known by the Russian Federation Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin, during a working visit to the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, last Friday.
Shebarshin, who stated that the visit was to consolidate on the gains made from the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi last year, added that the Russian embassy in Nigeria was keen on enhancing the bilateral co-operation between the two countries across the oil and gas value-chain.
He was quoted in a statement issued by the NNPC, as saying, “We are particularly interested in participating in Nigeria’s power infrastructure projects.
“We would also keep close track of the ongoing negotiations between the NNPC and Gazprom on the restoration of the bilateral cooperation which aims to revive and solidify the venture between our two companies for gas infrastructure development in Nigeria.”
Shebarshin highlighted the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the NNPC and Russian-based company, Lukoil, which focused on refinery rehabilitation, adding that he was ready to provide assistance to move the project forward.
Kyari thanked the ambassador for the visit and assured him of the NNPC’s commitment to partner the Russian embassy in Nigeria to ensure that the two countries benefit from the bilateral cooperation reached in Sochi, Russia.
He said, “As a national oil company, we are committed to growing Nigeria’s economy. We will set up communication channels with the Russian companies, Lukoil and Gazprom in particular, to promote this collaboration for the benefit of our two countries.”
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