By Julius Oweh
That Delta State is blessed with abundant crude oil and gas reserves is no longer news. And based on this economic advantage, there is a ministry in charge of gas and oil activities.
Their focus is to ensure that the state reaps maximum benefits from nature generous gift. Recently, the Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Honourable Omamofe Pirah and his counterpart of Special Duties, Honourable Henry Afure Sakpra spoke to the press as part of the accountability process of the Okowa administration.
Honourable Omamofe Pirah explained that the ministry of oil and gas is saddled with the responsibility of implementing an independent system for the monitoring and verification of oil and gas production figures in the state, identify areas of investment and employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry and stimulate, guide and encourage citizens of the state to invest on such emerging opportunities and provide training and skills acquisition opportunities for citizens of the state in the oil and gas industry in order to improve technical skills and invest in emerging technologies in the industry among others.
The commissioner revealed the policy thrust of the ministry :‘The main policy thrust of the Ministry is geared towards fostering peace in the oil and gas producing environment in order to prevent incidence of pipeline vandalism and destruction of other oil installations, designing programmes to attract investors into the region in order to invest in the oil and gas business with its attendant lucrative turnover as well as encouraging indigenous participation in the oil and gas business to enhance their livelihood in line with the state government‘s SMART AGENDA of strategic wealth creation project and provision of jobs for all and meaningful peace building aimed at political and social harmony‘.
The commissioner also disclosed that the ministry recorded some laudable achievements despite the fact that when the administration assumed office in May 2015, the oil and gas production of the state dropped to its lowest level due to pipeline vandalization, increased militancy in the Niger Delta region, particularly in the creeks resulting in the destruction of oil and gas facilities of major oil and gas companies.
Pirah, however, mentioned the following as some of the achievements in the period under review. They are :‘The ministry has recorded a high level of success through the various community engagement programmes which have led to the relative peace we are enjoying in Delta State. The outcome of these engagements no doubt paved way for more enduring peace in the region as the host communities now agitate for meaningful participation in the sector rather resorting to violence. The meditative meetings handled by the ministry between host communities and oil and gas companies have yielded positive impact.
This has helped immensely in creating an enabling environment for oil companies to operate. Worthy of note is the Heritage Oil Company which took over the operation of OML30 assets from the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) with offices at the former SPDC quarters in Edjeba, Warri. The company has progressed the production from the facility to over 50,000 BPD from the meagre 8,000 BPD before the divestment from SPDC. Also to be mentioned is the proposed modular refinery to be sited at the ATP premises in Sapele. Plans have reached an advanced stage with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Delta State government, the investors, Azerbaijan Methanol Company and Energy and Equity Resources Limited. ‘
The commissioner also said that the state government has encouraged indigenous participation in the oil and gas business so as to establish modular refineries in the state. He stated that two modular refineries have been licensed with the OMSA Pillars Astex Company (OPAC) limited in Kwale. He added that industrial park shall be built in Kwale and in his words ‘to leverage on its abundant gas competitive advantage for industrialization‘.
Pirah is of the strong conviction that ‘harnessing our God-given oil and gas resources require careful, proficient and best productive and managerial efforts by the stakeholders involved in the sector as it is a sensitive business that has to be nurtured to a full and adequate growth capacity‘. He therefore stated that his ministry will continue to engage the people at the grassroots to prevent pipeline vandalism and drum it into their ears what the effects of such bad disposition towards oil facilities could be to Nigeria.
The commissioner maintained that it was not all rosy affairs for the ministry of oil and gas and lamented thus the following constrains:’ The oil and gas business is still on the exclusive list of the federal government and such does not give much room for indigenous participation and The Nigerian Content Act 2010 considers Nigerian stage as a local constituency and thus inhibits the active participation of oil and gas host communities.
There is need for a conscious effort on the National Assembly to create a community content with the Act that would mandate the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to set aside certain aspects of their businesses for host communities‘.
On the part of Honourable Afure Sakpra, the Commissioner for Special Duties, he said that towards achieving the goal of the Smart Agenda of the Okowa administration, his office discharged duties in the areas of pulse of the nation reports from National Orientation Agency, flood management committee, interstate assignment and official representations.
On the National Orientation Agency, Sakpra maintained that his office coordinated, compiled and submitted comprehensive reports in respect of interface with relevant agencies. He also disclosed that ‘my office coordinated the distribution of the relief materials in Delta central senatorial district of the state in this committee that was chaired by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor‘.
On official representations he said thus: ‘It is important to mention at this juncture that my office has, at different occasions, represented His Excellency, the governor in official capacity. Some of these are celebration of International Day for the Older Persons, 2016 World Food Day Celebration, Delta State Auditors Forum and Isoko Development Union Annual Conference‘.
The commissioner also listed the establishment of ward liaison officers and widows’ welfare scheme as some of the achievements of his office. He explained the predicate of the ward liaison officers :‘In conjunction with the office of SSG, my office also handles the coordination and supervision of over 1,250 ward liaison officers and youth liaison officers who were appointed by His Excellency Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, to perform the following duties :i. Disseminate information on government programmes in their various communities. ii. Encourage their communities to participate in government economic programmes. Iii. Render periodic report on the conditions of public facilities such as Primary Health Centres and educational infrastructures in their communities‘.
The commissioner ended his briefing by speaking on the widows’ welfare scheme which is meant to put smiles on the faces of these despondent and vulnerable widows. He argued thus: ‘This is an empowerment programme which my office also handles through the Special Programme Committee of which I am the chairman. It is a novel initiative of Governor Okowa to cater for the vulnerable widows. Under the scheme 5,521 widows are given monthly stipends with total healthcare coverage under the Delta State Contributory Health scheme to ameliorate their challenges‘.