By Emma Amaize
OIL and gas communities in Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states, weekend, cried out that Nigerian oil blocs owners have allegedly foisted “internal colonialism” on the people, urging the Federal Government to call them to order.
Executives of Gbaramatu, Ogbe-Ijoh, Diebiri, Ogulagha, Iduwuni, Kou and Egbema clans in the three states under the auspices of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, led by Messrs. Doubra Wuruya and Smart Okosu, expressed the plight of communities when they visited the factional president of the council, Mr. Eric Omare.
Omare, who deplored the situation, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, NNPC and the Local Content Board to quickly intervene and stop the incongruity.
The protesting IYC clan executive members in their address to the IYC factional leader, condemned and expressed their total dissatisfaction with what they termed ‘’internal colonialism” of Niger Deltans in the oil and gas industry.
According to the IYC clan youth leaders, since the take-over of most oil and gas assets previously owned by multinational oil companies by indigenous companies such as Aiteo, Seplat, NECONDE, Shoreline and Dubril Oil, “the local operators have introduced practices that amount more or less to internal slavery of the Niger Delta host communities.
“Apart from owning and operating oil blocs, these new oil asset operators have also incorporated several companies with which they do lucrative oil servicing contracts that ought to be done by local people within their block areas. Even employment opportunities that are supposed to be given to the host communities are given to the kindred of the Nigerian assets owners to the detriment of the Ijaw and Niger Delta oil and gas host communities,” they added.
The IYC clan leaders stated that this new strategy by oil block owners “is not only condemnable but also illegal, as it amounts to conflict of interests for oil block owners to own subsidiary companies with which they execute key contracts for the operator to the detriment of the communities.”
They mentioned a firm said to be executing oil servicing jobs in Oil Mining Lease 42 oil fields, Odidi 1 & 11, Egwa 1 & 11, Ajuju/ Batan field and Jones creek in Ogbe-Ijoh, Diebiri and Gbaramatu Kingdoms to the detriment of the indigenes of the host communities, who have the capacity to do similar jobs.
The protesting Ijaw youths warned that the youths of the affected communities might disrupt operations of the company if President Buhari, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, the NNPC and the Local Content Board did not address the issues.
Condemning the deprivation of host communities by Nigerian oil block owners, who are beneficiaries of the local content policy, a product of the Niger Delta agitation, Omare said: “The Local Content Act was the first bill that was signed into law by former President Jonathan on assumption of office, as part of efforts to address the Niger Delta agitation.
“Local content in the oil and gas industry was not introduced to turn Nigerians from other parts of the country as local overlords and internal oil colonialists to the Niger Delta people, but primarily to empower the people of the region to participate in the oil industry.”
Omare recalled that the IYC under one of his predecessors, Mr. Mieabiye Kuromiema, initially negotiated five (5) percent on behalf of the communities in the divestment of OML 42, but this was not implemented by the Petroleum Ministry and NECONDE.
He promised to follow up the issue to ensure that the OML 42 communities in Ogbe-Ijoh, Diebiri and Gbaramatu Kingdoms got their five percent interest in the OML 42 oil fields.
The IYC leader called for the introduction of what he called ‘community content in the oil industry’ to address the emerging marginalization of local people by Nigerian oil bloc owners.
Omare reiterated that one of the 16-point demands of PANDEF is to award oil blocks to Niger Deltans, starting from the forthcoming marginal oil fields allocation. He, however, enjoined the IYC clan executive members in the respective clans to maintain the peace, especially those from Gbarmatu clan, which is host to the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.