Rivers State Government has hinted of plans to intervene in the Kporgor and Wakama crisis, in Tai and Ogu/Bolo local government areas, and rehabilitate victims of the clash that left two people dead last year.
Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Mr. Joe Poroma gave the assurance shortly after visiting the community and donating food items and cash to victims at Borobara community in Tai Local Government Area, Wednesday.
It would be recalled that inhabitants of Kporgor community in Tai were sacked on 21st of December last year, after they were allegedly attacked by their neighbours from Wakama community in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area over land dispute.
Poroma, after a tour of the Kporgor community told newsmen that the victims, who are now seeking refuge in neigbouring villages at Kira, Gio ,Nonwa and Borobara need urgent rehabilitation.
He described their situation as pathetic. He said, “Initially, my thought was for them to come back home, but what we have seen, there is no hope for them to come back home. I hope that this type of thing will not happen again.”
The commissioner stated that the visit was part of a fact finding mission to assess the level of damage, and promised to forward his report to the state government for urgent action.
He expressed fear that the rains will soon come and victims will suffer more as they are scattered in different communities for their safety.
With the state of things, the commissioner also expressed fear that the community may not participate in the upcoming elections next month.
“I am very doubtful if elections will take place in this community because; where will they come from and who is going to transport them here to come and vote,” he queried.
On his part, the traditional ruler of Kporgor, Chief Emmanuel Gbarabuleh thanked the state government for the gesture, while lamenting that women and children had been displaced, while schools and churches have been abandoned for the past one month after an attack from their neighbours.
He alleged that Kporgor and Wakama have clashed twice over land squabbles, adding that, “history told me our forefathers gave them the place they are staying, so, if they want land, they should approach us.”
Gbarabuleh urged the state government to come to their aid by setting up a boundary demarcation committee to ensure peace reigns between both communities.
Erring Oil Firms Must Be Penalised For Negligence, Senate Warns
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has called on the Federal Government through its relevant agencies to penalise indigenous oil companies responsible for the devastation of host communities where they operate.
Lawan made the call, yesterday, following a motion on “the extremely urgent need to stop the continuous crude oil and gas blow out spill at Santa Barbara well 1, OML 29 operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited in Opu Nembe, Bayelsa State.”
A statement signed by the Special Assistant (Press) to the Senate President, Ezrel Tabiowo, said the motion was sponsored by Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo (Bayelsa East).
According to the statement, “The lawmaker, while coming under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, noted with concern the continuous gushing and spewing of oil and gas into the waterways and mangrove vegetation of Opu Nembe area of Bayelsa State, from a long sealed, non-producing Oil Well 1, Santa Barbara OML 29 belonging to AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.”
Biobarakuma said, “Worried that even though same oil well has witnessed several oil spills in previous years, the current incident borders on catastrophe due to a long period of accumulated oil and maximum pressure from piled up gas in the well. The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order, the first of its kind in this part of the world.
“Further worried that the entire mangrove forests and aquatic life have been adversely affected by this methane gas, as rainbow-like sheens are seen on the water body around the point of incident down to the shoreline.
“Disturbed that dead fishes are also seen floating within the impacted area and fishing activities totally crippled, with the direction of the wind blowing onshore towards the community from the point of the incident.
“Aware that during the just concluded global Climate Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders gathered to encourage nations to implement international best practices in cutting off such emissions into the entire ecosystem. The Nigerian Government well represented by our dear President in our contribution to global climate action.
“Notes that while the policy on divestments by IOCS in exploration and production of oil and gas is a welcome development as it creates space for indigenous companies to invest and grow in the industry, such opportunities should be accorded to indigenous companies with proven requisite technical and financial competence.
“Worried that attempts to stop the continuous oil and gas spill by the operators had failed repeatedly for over one month running, wasting an estimated over two million barrels of hydrocarbon and gas, shows a disappointing appearance of technical incompetence in handling the incident on the part of AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.
“Notes that such degree of incompetence is sufficient to attract sanctions such as revocation of their operational license by the regulatory authorities to instill sanity in the oil and gas sector in response to the increased global call for protection of the environment.
“Notes with deep concern the threat that this incident poses to the health of the people of the host communities as the air and water have been contaminated, and also the possibility of a fire outbreak from the oil well if this wanton release of oil and methane gas continues unstopped.”
Senator George Thompson Sekibo representing Rivers East called on the Federal Government to intervene by curbing the excesses of oil companies in their host communities.
This is as he lamented that many states in the Niger Delta are polluted with soot as a result of the flagrant negligence of such companies.
On his part, the Senate President said that the National Assembly would insist on companies carrying out their corporate-social responsibilities to host communities under the law.
According to him, doing so would also involve penalising any company that fails to adhere to operational standards set out by the Federal Government.
“I feel very sad, that an indigenous oil company for that matter, would be involved in this kind of incident and yet not able to show any capacity.
“As a country, we want to promote our local content – indigenous oil companies – to participate in this industry.
“But we are going to insist, whether it is an indigenous owned company any or an international one, that the companies must be responsible to the communities and to us as a nation.
“This is devastation of lives and ecosystems in that part of the country, and I believe that this particular case should be made to be an example of what government and its agencies can do, not only to force the alleged culprit to remedy the environment but also to penalise the oil company for devastating the lives of the people of that area (Nembe)”, Lawan said.
The statement said the Senate urged AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to urgently seek, explore and deploy relevant highest level of expertise and technology to stop the spill and prevent continuous damage to the environment and restore the life support system of the people.
This is as the Senate condemned in totality the oil spillage by AITEO, and urge the relevant agencies to invoke the maximum penalties applicable under the laws for such infractions.
“The chamber urged the relevant agencies to undertake environmental impact assessment to determine the extent of the pollution with a view to undertake remediation in accordance with internationally accepted polluter pays principles within ninety days.
“The Senate further resolved that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) should, as a matter of urgency, provide relief materials as this ugly incident has taken a negative toll on the health and wellbeing of the people of the host communities which can be declared as a disaster area,” the statement added.
Wike, Okonjo-Iweala, Others Bag DAAR Awards
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; and the Director General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, were, last Monday, conferred with Man of the Year; and Woman of the Year awards, respectively.
The awards were given to the duo at the 4th DAAR Awards ceremony which marked the 25th anniversary of Africa Independent Television (AIT) in Abuja.
Presenting the award to Wike, the Chairman of the occasion, Sir Steve Omojafor, commended him for the transformational leadership he has exhibited as governor.
Omojafor noted that governor has recorded giant strides in infrastructure, education, healthcare, agriculture and sports.
He recommended the Wike model for other politicians to emulate in order to fast track development in the country.
“If other governors carry out their responsibilities like Governor Wike, Nigeria will be a better place for all,” he stated.
Omojafor described the honour bestowed on Wike as well deserved, and commended DAAR Communications PLC for recognising excellence.
Receiving the award on behalf of Governor Nyesom Wike, the Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, thanked the organisers for the recognition that would spur the governor to do more.
She noted that Wike was delivering more people-oriented projects in his second tenure because of his avowed commitment to leave behind a worthy legacy.
Banigo stated that the governor’s determination to challenge the status quo was to promote the rule of law and deepen democracy in Nigeria.
She described Rivers State as the safest place to invest and do business in the country, and invited investors to take advantage of the situation.
The deputy governor dedicated the award to God and the people of the state who gave the governor a second term mandate because of his visionary leadership.
The governors of Osun, Borno and Delta states also bagged Outstanding Leadership in Public Service in Citizens Welfare, Peace and Security and Education, respectively.
Buhari Writes Senate, Seeks Passage Of Finance Bill 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari has written the Senate, seeking the consideration and subsequent passage of the 2021 Finance bill that would guide the implementation of the 2022 appropriation.
In a letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan and read during plenary, yesterday, Buhari said that the bill when passed will help support the 2022 Budget of Economic growth and sustainability that was presently before the National Assembly, awaiting passage.
According to the president, the bill would also help to carry out some radical reforms in the finances of the government.
While the cover letter was titled, ‘Transmission of the Finance Bill 2020 to the National Assembly for Consideration and Passage into Law in Support of the 2021 Budget,’ the bill proposes various amendments to existing tax laws and financial regulations in response to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the current recession.
The president’s letter read, “Pursuant to Sections 58 and 59 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), | formally request that the Finance Bill, 2021 be considered by the Senate for passage into law.
“The Finance Bill, 2021 seeks to support the implementation of the 2022 Federal Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability by Proposing key reforms to specific taxation, customs, excise, fiscal and other relevant laws.
“Specifically, this bill provides for enhancing domestic revenue mobilisation efforts to increase tax and non-tax revenues, Tax Administration and Legislative Drafting Reforms, particularly to support the ongoing automation reforms by the Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS’)”
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