By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Mr Chimemma Okolo, is a lawyer and editor of a law report, Superior Courts Law Reports of Nigeria(SCLR). In this interview, he talked about the reasons whyÂ government must expedite action on the utilization of the countryâ€™s gas deposit. Also, he highlighted governmentâ€™s neglect of his Ndokwa people of Delta state over the years.
As a youths leader from a Niger/ Delta community, do you know whether the oil companies in your area are complying with the governmentâ€™s directive on reduction or stoppage of gas flaring before year 2010 ?
Its unfortunate that the way we treat ourselves in this countryÂ is the way the oil companies treat us. There is no where in the world that the current level of gas flaring by oil companies or oil major is acceptable. Most of these multi nationals have their own country and they donâ€™t do this in their own country. In Nigeria we keep shifting the issue of when gas flaring should end and we keep destroying our environment. Gas is something that we would have put to better use.
In Nigeria we are wasting gas, our people are still using kerosine and fire woods to cook. I wonder what this generation want to leave for my generation when they destroyed the environment, destroyed our water, destroyed our land.
Talking about oil companies operating in my area, the major oil company operating in Ndokwa land is National and Agip Oil Company. It has one of its major operations in Ndokwa land. It has an IPP which is currently generates 450 megawatts of electricity, it is a multi billion naira project commissioned by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005.
It generates 450 megawatts to the national grid but its unfortunate that Agip has not in Ndokwa land since 1965 have something to show for it. With the IPP in our land, common sense, equity, fairness would have dictated that electricity should be stepped down for the host communities but Agip didnâ€™t do that, they went to Obosi to step down the electricity. Youths from the area agitated, the President intervened that the company should step down electricity. Four years after, nothing has been done.
Our elders took up the matter after some period through the government of Delta State which called a meeting between the Ndokwa people, again Agip also refused to honour the invitation. Is it because our people are peaceful and desirous of settling any problem they have amicably?
We wrote a letter to NNPC and NNPC through the general manager of NAPIPS wrote to Agip to pick up a date in April 2009 for them to meet the Ndokwa people reminding them that the Ndokwa nation has remained peaceful and they need to maintain that peace, again Agip refused to acknowledge the letter let alone setting up a meeting. Agip is waiting for us to take up arms, they are actually waiting for us to blow up their gas or oil pipelines.
Agip has been operating for over 35 years in Ndokwa land they cannot build a less than a kilometer bridge. Our people are still using boats to ferrying themselves from one point to the other. I just hope that Agip will listen to this and come to its right senses.
How can you describe the relationship between the government andÂ people from your community over the years?
Ndokwa is the second largest ethnic group in Delta State and we have no history of oil-related violence. We have never heard of Ndokwa person kidnaping or blow oil pipelines. Unfortunately to a large extent we have been neglected. Today no serious infrastructures in that area. We donâ€™t have good roads, we donâ€™t have water to drink, our farms are destroyed because of the oil explorations. Presently, there is no federal government presence in Ndokwa land.
In fact, the only federal government presence in Ndokwa land is the Police Force and the Nigeria Prison. On the part of the state government, I would want to say that the man-in-charge now appears to begin to look at Ndokwa problems asÂ problems that he can make effort to tackle.
I am saying this because of one or two things he has done. Right now he has set up an ICT biotech research centre which is to enable our people get into ICT world. He has also gave out some road projects in the area. As we commend him, we also believe that more need to be done. We are appealing to the governor to use his good offices to consider one of our sons or daughters to take one of these positions coming to Delta State in NDDC.
How do you think the amnesty from the federal government will settle the crises in Niger/ Delta ?
Nigeria has remained a very funny country. The people of that area are only asking for an even development. The government is given out N50 billion as amnesty whereas roads leading to the East-Western axis remains death trap.Â You can imagine what N 50 billion could do for fixing the roads. Also, youths from the area are out of job. We are in a country that do not get her priorities right. The people are more or less agitating for a better deal from the Nigeria state that has been given so much.
The Ndokwa Youth Congress or the Ndokwa people does not support any form of criminality in any guise but certainly things must be done properly.Â The government is just using its method to make the militants turn in their arms and ammunition.
There is no sincerity of purpose whether amnesty or no amnesty the Nigeria nation will show sincerity of purpose to develop the Niger-Delta. You do not talk of amnesty when there is no justice and fair play. The alternative is to pull out JTF and start development.
The House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole said that what the military is doing in the Niger/ DeltaÂ is a peace-keeping effort.
I am praying that Dimeji Bankoleâ€™s village should have oil and they would come and do this kind of peace-keeping in his village. The only thing Nigeria is interested in the Niger-Delta is the oil and gas they get from there. It is unfortunate, they donâ€™t care about the people which is why the boys are doing what they are doing. If you want peace in the Niger-Delta, develop the area. Let them see that they are part of the Nigeria nation.