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SERAP, Ogonis Take FG To ECOWAS Court Over Illegal Pipelines, Oil Theft

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over “the failure to probe the operations of illegal oil pipelines between 2001 and 2022, to name and prosecute those suspected to be involved, and to recover proceeds of crime.”
The suit was filed by SERAP, Chief Eric Dooh (who is suing for himself as a leader of the Goi Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, and on behalf of the Goi Community), and 15 other concerned Nigerians.
The suit followed recent reports of the discovery of, at least, 58 illegal oil pipelines used to steal the country’s oil wealth.
The stealing is reportedly carried out through the illicit pipeline connected to the trunk line via an abandoned pipeline, and linked to a location in the high sea, where they load crude oil into vessels and sell overseas.
In the Suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/53/22 filed, last Friday, before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking: “an order directing and compelling the Buhari government to immediately probe the reports of operations of illegal pipelines and oil theft, name and prosecute suspected perpetrators.
The Plaintiffs are also seeking: “an order directing and compelling the Buhari government to fully recover any proceeds of crime, and to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of the people of Niger Delta that have continued to suffer the effects of oil theft by non-state actors.”
In the suit, the Plaintiffs are arguing that, “The Buhari government is failing to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure that the country’s oil wealth is used solely for the benefit of Nigerians, and that the wealth does not end up in private pockets.”
The Plaintiffs are also arguing that, “Poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians have continued to pay the price for the stealing of the country’s oil wealth apparently by both state and non-state actors.”
According to the Plaintiffs, “Despite the country’s substantial oil wealth, successive governments have largely squandered the opportunity to use the wealth to improve the lives and well-being of ordinary Nigerians.”
The Plaintiffs are also arguing that, “the illegal pipelines have been operated for many years without notice, implying a flagrant violation of international human rights obligations to ensure the proper, effective and efficient management of the country’s wealth and natural resources.”
In the suit filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare, the Plaintiffs contend that, “The plundering of the country’s oil wealth has resulted in the downward trend in revenue and increasing level of borrowing, with reports of a projected N11.30trillion deficit budget for 2023.”
The suit, read in part: “The unaddressed plundering of the country’s oil wealth has for many years contributed to shrinking revenue, chronic underfunding of public goods and services such as education, health, and safe drinking water, recurring budget deficits, growing level of borrowing, and unsustainable debt profile.
“There are violations of the economic and social rights of the people of the Niger Delta, including the rights to an adequate standard of living, and to economic and social development – as a consequence of the plundering of the country’s resources through the operations of illegal pipelines by non-state actors.
“The Buhari government has failed to exercise due diligence to prevent and combat oil theft; to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recover proceeds of crimes; and to respect, protect, promote and fulfil people’s rights.
“The Plaintiffs contend that the resulting loss from the plundering of the country’s wealth and natural resources by non-state actors and state actors through the operations of illegal pipelines is a contributory cause of poverty and underdevelopment in the Niger Delta.
“The Plaintiffs further contend that the majority of the people of Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole continue to be denied access to basic necessities of life such as clean water, quality education, healthcare, food, a clean and healthy environment, and economic development.
“This illegal oil connection has been operating for nine years with about 600,000 barrels per day of oil lost in the same period.
“According to a Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audit report, 160million barrels of crude oil valued at $13.7billion were stolen between 2009 and 2012.
“The Plaintiffs contend that the destruction of vessels used for crude oil theft by security agencies under the command of the Defendant was illegal and was done to conceal the identity of the perpetrators.
“It is further contended that the forfeiture of any vessel used for illegal activity can only be lawfully carried out pursuant to the order of a Court of competent jurisdiction.
“The Plaintiffs are, therefore, asking the ECOWAS Court for the following reliefs: A declaration that everyone in the Niger Delta is entitled to the internationally recognised human right to an adequate standard of living, to life and human dignity, to a clean and healthy environment; to wealth and natural resources, to human dignity, and to economic and social development.
“A declaration that the failure and/or negligence of the Defendant to prevent and combat oil theft through the operations of illegal pipelines by non-state actors, and to investigate, arrest, name and prosecute the perpetrators of this oil theft and operation of illegal refineries, and recover the proceeds of crime, is unlawful, as it violates Nigeria’s international human rights and anti-corruption obligations and commitments.
“A declaration that the failure and/or negligence of the Defendant to investigate the reports of operations of illegal pipelines and to recover the proceeds of crime is unlawful, as it amounts to depriving the Nigerian people of their right to the enjoyment of their wealth.
“A declaration that the failure of the Defendant to provide access to justice and effective remedies including reparation for the victims, is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of obligations to ensure the human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“An Order directing the Defendant and/or its agents individually and/or collectively to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of the people of Niger Delta that have continued to suffer the effects of oil theft and plundering by non-state actors.
“An Order directing the Defendant to pay adequate monetary compensation of $500million to the victims of these crimes and human rights violations within the Niger Delta region, and any other forms of reparation that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant.
“Such further orders the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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Fubara Promises To Maximise Youth Potentials In Rivers

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has affirmed his administration’s focus in prioritising policies that will maximise the potentials of the youths in the State.
Fubara made this declaration yesterday at the State NYSC permanent orientation camp, Nonwa-Gbam Tai, in Tai Local Government Area during the swearing-in ceremony of 2024 Batch A Stream 1 corps members deployed to Rivers State.
This was contained in a statement by the Head of Press Unit, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Juliana Masi, yesterday.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Bureau, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Sir Samson Friday Dede, the governor commended the NYSC Scheme for the positive impacts it is making in the nation’s quest for sustained development.
“My administration will be unwavering and fully focused in supporting the youths in maximizing their potentials”, he said.
He assured the corps members of his administration’s commitment in supporting them to achieve the mandate of uniting and integrating to the nation.
The governor further admonished corps members to take full advantage of the camp programmes and activities to equip themselves to contribute to nation building.
Earlier, Coordinator, NYSC, Rivers State, Mr. George Mfongang, had urged the corps members to be in the forefront of the nation’s development by being hard working, disciplined and morally sound.
He commended them for being passionate and enthusiastic in imbibing the lessons of the orientation exercise.
The Coordinator thanked Governor Fubara for his unflinching commitment in ensuring the security and welfare of corps members in the State especially, the payment of State allowance to them.
A total of 1,585 Corps members made up of 819 males and 766 females took the oath of allegiance at the ceremony that was administered by Justice Ibiwengi Roseline Minakiri.

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FG, Cement Manufacturers Agree On N7,000, N8,000 For 50kg Per Bag

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The Federal Government and cement manufacturers have agreed on a N7,000 to N8,000 per 50 kg bag price of cement to halt the astronomical rise in the price of the product.
This agreement was part of a deal struck after several hours of meeting held behind closed doors at the headquarters of the Ministry of Works, between the Federal Government and cement manufacturers , in Abuja, yesterday.
The manufacturers agreed to sell a 50kg bag of cement at a retail price between N7,000 and N8,000, depending on location nationwide.
They, however put a caveat that the price drop from the current market price would largely depend on government fulfilling its promised interventions in certain areas of concern to ameliorate critical challenges faced in the industry.
Retail price for cement jumped from N5,000 to N10,000 within one week in the open market, after wholesalers, citing increasing cost of transportation and other variables, made adjustments to the price they sell to retailers.
Retailers in turn transferred the additional cost burden to consumers to stay afloat.
This prompted President Bola Tinubu to order the Ministers of Works, David Umahi and his Trade and Investment counterpart, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite. to meet with cement manufacturers to find a solution to the crisis.
Umahi had, while calling for the meeting, expressed the Federal Government’s concern over the development, adding that if the situation wasn’t brought under control, it had the potential of hurting the prosperity agenda of the current administration.
After the meeting, Umahi read out a communique in which he mentioned concerns raised by the manufacturers.
These concerns include: bad roads, smuggling, high cost of energy, and the Forex crisis. This according to the manufacturers were the primary reasons behind the price hike.
He also said the manufacturers which include Dangote Cement PLC, BUA Cement PLC, Larfarge Africa PLC and Cement Producers Association, expressed willingness to reduce the prices going forward.
Representatives of the Federal Government include the Minister of Works and his counterpart in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
While reading the communique, Umahi said: “The meeting noted the challenges of the manufacturers like: cost of gas; high import duty on spare parts; bad road network; high foreign exchange; and smuggling of cement to neighbouring nations.
“The government noted the challenges and reacted as follows: Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to seek some remedies from Mr. President on cost of gas and import duties.”

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We Are Hungry, Dying, Ibadan Protesters Tell Tinubu

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Thousands of people, on Monday, thronged the major streets of Ibadan in Oyo State, to protest the hardship in the country.
The protesters, who are mainly youths, kept saying they were not out to cause trouble, but to call the attention of all the tiers of governments to the unbearable hardship in the country.
Though they did not use any objects to block the roads, they converged on accesses leading to the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Sango, Dugbe and Eleyele, thereby blocking vehicular traffic.
They displayed several placards with inscriptions such as ‘Give us good health, End bad governance, End food hike, Open border, End hardship, ‘Is this the renewed hope you promised?’
At intervals, organisers of the protest kept updating the security agents who kept vigilance to arrest anyone who caused problem or hijacked the protest for selfish ends.
During the protest, some schools and banks shut their gates.
The Tide learnt that the protest was convened through the social media.
One of the messages sent by the conveners read, “People should not pass through Mokola roundabout because there will be protest on Monday”.
The message advised that motorists should take alternative routes to their destinations.
A lady who refused to disclose her name, caught the attention of many people with a placard that read: ‘Sanitary pad now costs N4,000; we can’t be using cloth, Please, help us’. Nothing should happen to me. All I’m asking for is my legitimate earning and ease of life.’
Another woman, who identified herself as Mobolaji Inaolaji, one of the coordinators, said: “We want to tell our leaders that things are not right, they should make things easier for us. We are not here to cause violence, things are too costly and people are dying.
“It is our right to protest whether we got permit or not. We have told the security agents that they should arrest whoever causes problem. We are peaceful and law abiding. All we want is to make government know our pains. We will go through most parts of the city.”
Other protesters who were speaking with anger, said: “This problem is too much. Whoever wants to arrest me should come and do so. If we don’t die outside, we’ll die at home.”
After about an hour at Mokola, the protesters headed towards Sango and other parts of the city.

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