By Emma Amaize
ASABA—NATIONAL Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, weekend, said that the Federal Government has totally estranged oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region in terms of infrastructural development, employment and appointment.
Chief Clark, who reviewed the response of the Federal Government to critical needs of the region in the past three years, said: “We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to without delay redirect a correction of the various imbalances of these very sensitive issues in the interest of equity, fairness and peace.
“We advocate strongly that there must be a deliberate review to involve qualified indigenes of the oil and gas host communities in top and middle level positions as well as in the allocation of oil blocsk/marginal fields in the oil and gas industry to host communities.
“As a consequence of Federal Government’s casual and lethargic approach, which some perceived as lack of commitment and seriousness to the immediate resolution of the current Niger Delta crisis, the patience of the youths and other critical stakeholders in the region was waning.
“More worrisome is the way the Federal Government has conducted appointments to positions in the management of the nation’s oil and gas sector, which is operated in our backyard. Nearly all the top and middle level positions in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiaries are manned mostly by northerners, rather than those from the areas. As it stands today, the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta are completely alienated.
“A ready case in point is the composition of the nine-member NNPC Board, which Mr. President constituted in 2016, where the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who is chairman of the Board by virtue of his portfolio, and Dr. Thomas John, a former group managing director of NNPC from Cross River State, are the only members from the South-South. Six directors out of the nine, including the sitting Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, are from the Northern part of the country, which do not produce oil.
“To our utter dismay and rude shock, of the 55 top management staff of the NNPC made public in September 2017, only 19 are from the South, while over 36 are from the North, a non-oil producing zone. This was in the face of the protestations by the people of the Niger Delta over the obvious marginalization in the NNPC Board composition.”
“Breakdown of another 41 top management staff positions of the NNPC made at the same time, showed that only five are from the Niger Delta region, while nine are from the other Southern divide, South West and South East zones, and the North has 27 positions. Does this depict an equal Nigeria? No. These actions are affronts on the sensibilities of the people of Niger Delta and indeed the people of southern Nigeria.
“Despite the neglect we suffer and the unnecessary provocations, the people of the Niger Delta region have remained committed to unity and oneness of Nigeria. Because we believe in the corporate existence of our great country, Nigeria, we are not asking for too much, all we are saying is that our people should maximally benefit from the resources from their land.
“We had hoped and would endeavour to keep that hope alive that this administration of Mr. President is one that will do things differently in addressing the years of neglect and underdevelopment of the region.”
The Niger Delta leader urged Buhari “to give conscientious consideration to our reflections and requests, and act accordingly. If we fail to provide rational and realistic interventions, we leave room for decadents to further devise trajectories for unorthodox alterations. But if you act rightly and justly, your name would be written with golden inks not only in annals of history but also in hearts and minds of the people of Niger Delta.”