BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
Former national president, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN Dr Brown Ogbeifun in this interview encouraged the quick take off of modular refineries in the Niger Delta , saying it would create over twenty jobs across the region. According to him, before the refineries would take off Excravos, Koko, Sapele, Burutu ports in Delta state would be dredged, noting that this would step up employment opportunities for teeming youths in the region .
Lets here your take on modular refineries and its impact in the Niger Delta region
The reason I support modular is because of the devastatng effect of vandalism, stealing of crude from pipelines that stretches through kilometers to get to their end points which it would redress. . Modular refineries will come closer to the source of raw materials, you are not likely to use long stretch of pipelines that will be vandalized. But this will require federal government to ensure our waterways, ports are back because you will need to do a lot of dredging. Modular refineries are small refineries to provide few stock to a dedicated target. When the waterways and ports are back the vessels can come closer to the refineries. When you refurbish Koko, Gelegele, Ports, Warri ports this will enhance the refineries. And the dredging will mean thousand of job opportunities for youths in the region.
When we have modular refineries in an area it will create jobs for people around. people will be trained in the art of refining , the local content law that encourages engagement of locals for certain jobs will come in force. It will also help us deal with the environmental hazards from attack on oil facilities, illegal bunkering activities
Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo during a tour of the region as Acting President said international oil companies should relocate their headquarters to the region. Any word for the region?
There are so many factors for the pronouncement of the Vice President, Professor Osibanjo to IOCs when he toured the region to come on stream . The governments of states in the region need to also see what they can do to be more friendly, these companies are in business. Any oil and gas person is in business to make money. They go through a lot of unsecured environment. If you want to pull people back to the region you must be ready to guaranty security.
Again the companies are facing multiple taxation, from the local government to the states it is not something that is easy for the multinationals, that is why we are talking of the Petroleum Indusry Bill, to harmonize the taxes, so it is not about a marching order from the presidency. You must have an environment that is safe , economically viable and conducive for their operations.
Government at all levels must go beyond lip service. Warri used to be the hub of activities for shell. Government must go beyond lip service. When they were divesting from shallow waters, land, I am sure more than sixty percent of their assets were given out. What would stop the governor of the state from intervening. If they are here our children will have job. This would have made the economy of the state bubble. This would reduce the level of unemployment, insecurity in the region. We lost it because they just folded their arms and allowed it to happen.”
Lets hear your assessment of the amnesty program for ex militants in the Niger delta
Let us go the memory lane and ask how militancy started, it may be my own opinion with all I have read and seen and from the angle of the oil and gas sector. Militancy has three dimensions we need to look at them so we don’t get wrong answers.
Militancy started with agitations for a better Niger delta, here is a region that is underdeveloped yet you have most of the resources of the nation from the region. The boys in the creeks are seeing what the elites are doing with their wealth from the region through illegal bunkering . it is not a poor man who could afford badges and military excorts for the badges on the waterways for illicit oil deals. The people in the communities were seeing it so the boys were relatively angry.
Also you look at the political elites that have used some of the boys for electioneering purposes abandoning the boys without means of livelihood. So they go back to the creeks. The third aspects is that there are those that are into criminality but powdered as militancy. You can see the genuine agitation for resource control, those used and dumped by politicians and the criminals in the system. It became a little bit more difficult as they progressed to identify who is who
Whether we like it or not the region has suffered a lot of underdevelopment because the money that is taken from the region is not commensurate with the development in the region. Go to Norway they have a museum, that has become a tourist attraction on how they started, the money has been used to improve education, heath in the country as a whole, the area where the oil is from has become a tourist attraction.
You talked about the amnesty, I think it was President Musa Yar Adua that came up with it. The very bad state of having assets of companies destroyed in the region. The creek is not where you can use military operations. Dialogue becomes the appropriate approach. In all states in the world with similar problems you do a lot of mediation. Amnesty in this sense was not a bad concept. When it started you saw the mop of arms , it reduced the level of criminality in the region. Our oil production went up.
However, the implementation became a little bit faulty. The real resource control foot solders that were there in the creeks could not be said to have formerly benefited as a whole, people who did not know why and where militancy started became the beneficiaries , relatives were brought in. it became cumbersome, suddenly the budgets could not carter for those it should , that is the truth . I believe that scrapping the amnesty program is not a solution, , we have to define it properly. Again I do not believe that amnesty is forever. Today we have youths who graduated from aviation schools that are pilots and several other programs in the Universities it shows that the guys are intelligent.
If we do the amnesty program well and concentrate on the militants , I am sure today we would have had just a few left. Because most of them would have been empowered to work. We have not been able to deal with the militancy because of the sharp practices mentioned.
Any word for the youths as a labour leader?.
Militancy or resource agitations should not connote destruction of national assets because the more you do the more you deploy money needed for other developmental purpose to fix the assets. For example three or four times the Excravos line that supplies crude to refineries are blown this happens almost yearly. The money to repair it should go to other areas. The only way is to have platforms were people can bare their minds. So our youths should embrace dialogue to arrive at solution to issues of underdevelopment in the region.
The environment is badly hampered by exploration activities, you talk of black sooth it is real,. You have your first rain of the year in the region, you can see the hydrocarbons as black as they are in your buckets and people inhale this on a daily basis. Dr Brown Ogbeifun The thing we need to do as a nation is to have a regulatory framework to reduce gas flare. We have paid too much lip service to ending gas flare. The people don’t have water to fish any more. We should also discourage attack on oil facilities, the region is suffering it. The environment suffers.