ONE major reason the situation in the Niger Delta is irresolvable is that neither governments, nor oil companies accept responsibility for its utter neglect.

Their concerns are about unfettered oil and gas production and the billion of Dollars they make from it. Both parties can really be tagged partners in the sustenance of the abuses that rage in the Niger Delta.

Each occasion that arises to address the issues, leaves governments and the oil companies shifting blames. An event on Monday on environmental issues of the Niger Delta ended on that familiar note.

“Over the years there has been a near total neglect or failure to diligently integrate environmental concerns into oil exploration and production activities by the oil companies.

This region is heavily polluted due to oil spillage, sabotage, pipeline vandalisation, and emission from gas flaring,” Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, a retired federal permanent secretary, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation for eight years under President Olusegun Obasanjo, began, in the sanctimonious tunes that marked the day.

“Oil waste pits and hazardous dumpsites abound in the region while untreated industrial effluents, solid and municipal wastes are discharged with little concern about the environmental impacts.

“Youth restiveness has assumed a high level of criminality in many instances and the primary cause cannot be removed from the gross neglect by the oil companies”.

Chief Ekaette forgot that governments, including ones he served in, made environmental policies the oil companies obeyed, or rejected. Governments can punish oil companies for violations of laws. Did they?

“The choice we made as a nation in our oil industry has something to do with the state of the environment, especially when it comes to gas flaring, Mr. Basil Omiyi, Vice Chairman of Shell Companies in Nigeria and Chairman, Oil Producers Trade Sector, said in a swift response to the Minister.

“The country was in a hurry to earn income from oil and didn’t quite say we’ll wait until we’re able to utilise the gas before we do so; or it didn’t quite make the policies that enable gas utilisation to happen.

“For example, if oil for export and local refineries, gas to power were part of Nigeria’s energy policy, there would be no gas flaring today, and the power plants will be built in the heart of the Niger Delta, and power will go into the national grid,” Mr. Omiyi concluded.

These positions do nothing for the Niger Delta. Connivance between governments and the oil companies to the disadvantage of the long-suffering people of the region are too well known for Chief Ekaette and Mr. Omiyi to remind us.

We believe they can convert the same zeal with which they have despoiled these areas to new energies for sincerely developing them. They must agree on new agenda to develop the Niger Delta before the oil and gas runs out.

It is a challenge that public recriminations cannot meet.


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