By Egufe Yafugborhi
VICE PRESIDENT Yemi Osinbajo, who, like the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, is fond of telling people what they want to hear, declared in passing that oil companies should relocate to producing environment in the Niger Delta.
Flamboyantly academic and articulate, Osinbajo flatters Niger Deltans with such promissory note and it turned instant opium that incited a legion of Niger Delta activists (jobbers or genuine), groups, communities, self-imposed leaders and crusaders into harping on “oil firms must relocate” ultimatum as if government just signed Osinbajo’s thinking into a law that oil firms must obey.
While the incitement provoked by the VP’s overstretched rhetorics is yet to die down, Osinbajo again, in continuation of his visit to the Niger Delta, rated historic by Ijaws and allies, dropped another blind promise. This time, it is of Federal Government’s preparedness to develop modular refineries in the producing environment chiefly to support and transform racketeers of illegal oil refineries into lawful businessmen.
Since Osinbajo made both pronouncements, the Niger Delta has been animated in a new burst of advocacy and agitations, fronted by same self-styled leaders. Even many who have self-destroyed and drowned into irrelevance by sheer failures and greed in past positions of public trust have found new vocals.
The consensus among the agitators and promoters of Osinbajo’s declarations is that oil companies must, not any day longer, relocate headquarters to the operating environment or face some undetermined sanctions. On modular refinery, moving dramatically faster than the VP who set the agenda, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, still struggling through leadership crisis, is already forcing down the throat of government, some vague demands at ensuring they have choice of first refusal above every other Niger Delta group, when the seeming utopian benefits of the Federal Government modular refineries start raining in.
In volatile Gbaramatu, some power brokers have already flown in foreign investment partners and introduced same to Osinbajo in an Abuja meeting with assurance to also ensure security of all lives and property so that the perceived revolutionary modular refineries to be sited in the Ijaw community in Warri South West council area of Delta state will become a success story.
To justify the hype and psyche themselves up for the puerile promotion of Osinbajo’s promises, the cheering crowd had to dress the pronouncements in false garbs as presidential “order” and “policy”. How could anybody arrogate force of law to a mere expression of the VP’s wishes?
The VP, barely a week ago, sensibly acknowledged that the leadership question with Nigeria was not of lack of ideas, but rather that of failure to translate the myriad of good ideas into practical results. I think he meant that not just for the current administration, but for past governments as well. If he is so informed why should he still delight in building castle in the air with flamboyant promises before thinking of a clear action plan.
My advice to all, including oil host communities, is not to allow any jobber use them as a rent crowd to protest against oil Majors because the protest racketeers are already warming up for contracts over this matter. This caution may be coming too late because in Akwa Ibom, youths have already began a protest at the Ibeno operational base of Mobil, demanding that the oil giant relocate its headquarters to the state or face their wrath.
If the VP is serious about his statement, he should send to the National Assembly, a bill compelling oil firms to have their headquarters in their exploration environment. Let that law materialise, then we will know he is sincere about his declaration. That law would, of course, spell a timeline for enforcement, while spelling out government and host communities’ obligations with respect to security of lives and assets, of all staff and assets following enforcement of the relocation order.
Again, the VP should fashion out a clear blueprint spelling stakeholders dos and don’ts, boundaries and rules of engagement in his intended modular refineries before going to town with the idea. Otherwise, these promissory notes are not worth cheering about, no matter how sweet they sound.
It is disappointing that between Osinbajo and Kachikwu, the intelligentsia in the Buhari administration, are the most guilty of patronising the populace with empty, insincere, theoretical promises lacking practical bearing.
For Kachikwu, he had barely settled down as GMD, NNPC when he promised eliminating oil theft and vandalism in the industry with application of drones within eight months. Today, nothing has been heard of that declaration. Only last month at a lecture of the 1st Founders’ Day Lecture of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, FUPRE, Delta State, Kachikwu projected on “The Prospect of Nigeria’s Oil Industry in the Next Decade” that Nigeria’s current efforts at “improved local refineries and refined products capacity will reduce importation by 60% by end of 2018 and reposition the country for net export by 2019.” How realisable is this with the state of our refineries?
It is no surprise therefore that both men have found Gbaramatu as a most fertile ground to preach and impress with their empty promises. Before Osinbajo’s visit to Niger Delta, Kachikwu it was who went to Gbaramatu to vow that he would at all cost ensure that the stalemated Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, is put on stream even if it means mobilising the enabling funds from the NNPC. Beyond willfully aggravating Ijaw’s hate against Rotimi Amaechi, how well has Kachikwu matched words with action on this NMU vow with all the cheering he attracted?
Even if he had the fiat, which wasn’t tenable, FUPRE which status falls under the petroleum ministry is yet to get an enabling law and still struggling for relevance ten years after inception. The development of this institution to meet its status as Africa’s premier specialised petroleum varsity should preoccupy Kachikwu’s mind as head of the Petroleum Ministry rather than arrogate to himself, authority extraneous to his office.
If he means well for the Niger Delta, he should first do his home work, be armed with a startup action plan before declaring relocation wishes and promises. As a pointer to this, he now has the responsibility of defending his oil companies’ relocation “order” against the backdrop of the violent interpretation Akwa Ibom youths are giving it.
*Mr. Yafugborhi, a journalist, wrote from Warri, Delta State.