By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE people of Niger Delta, yesterday, demanded from the Federal Government the Right of First Refusal, RoFR, in the renewal and award of new oil licenses, starting from about 50 oil blocks and marginal fields that will expire in 2019.
National Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta region, Chief Edwin Clark, in a statement, said the group intervened and prevailed on militants to stop destruction of oil facilities, “and they listened, resulting in improved production and revenue to the Federal Government”.
Clark stated: “We are aware that about 50 oil blocs and marginal fields will expire next year, 2019.These marginal fields should be divested to indigenous companies. We, therefore, demand that the Federal Government should, as matter of strategic priority, approve the granting to Niger Delta indigenes and the Niger Delta state governments the Right of First Refusal in the renewal and award of new oil licenses henceforth.”
According to him, a situation whereby major oil companies bypass their host communities and offer sale of their oil installations to persons outside the oil producing communities makes the people of the Niger-Delta strangers in their own land and thus colonized by their fellow Nigerians.
“If the multinational oil companies were made to comply with the directive to relocate to their areas of operation in the Niger Delta, we reasonably believe that the socio-economic life of the people whose means of livelihood and ecosystem have been devastated, by oil and gas exploration, will experience a new lease of life”, the elder statesman said.
“The oil producing states, in the Niger Delta, who bear the brunt of degradation, arising from the oil exploratory activities, will also derive additional revenues from taxes and other essential levies from these oil companies”.
Saying that PANDEF was disturbed that besides the laudable efforts that led to the commencement of academic activities at the Maritime University Okerenkoko, which it had rightly acknowledged, nothing much had been done by the Federal Government on all the critical issues raised in its 16-point demand.
“The efforts of PANDEF were climacteric to the nation’s climbing out of recession through a stable oil and gas production regime, from an abysmal 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) at the height of the hostilities in the region, to an appreciable oil production level of 2.35 million bpd, massive increases in gas production, all of which significantly contributed to a robust revenue earning capacity for the Country. Indeed, through the intervention of PANDEF, the people of the Niger Delta region have demonstrated tremendous patriotism and goodwill towards the current administration. However, regrettably, there has been no tangible reciprocal action by the Federal Government to the gesture by the people”, he said.
The former Federal Commissioner for Information said that Niger Deltans realised that the Federal Government had obligations to the entire country, but warned that the people of the region held the view that their patience and show of true patriotism was being taken for granted.
“We want to call on the Federal Government, once more to retrace its steps regarding the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. We continue to enjoin our people to be law abiding and peaceful, but the total non action and disregard is eroding the trust which our place in our ability to continue to interface on their behalf.