…Decries destruction of oil facilities in the zone
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met behind closed doors with the South South Traditional Rulers at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting came on the heels of a threat by a Niger Delta Group to declare Niger Delta Republic, a separate country from Nigeria on June 1.
The meeting started at about 11.37am shortly after the President signed the 2019 Appropriation Bill of N8. 92 trillion into law.
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina in a statement said President Buhari at the meeting said the destruction of oil facilities by vandals was hurting the host communities, the majority of the people and the environment more than the government.
The President appealed to South-South Monarchs Forum, SSMF, led by King Edmund Daukoru, Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe Kingdom and the elders of the zone to do more to end pipeline vandalism in their communities.
According to the statement, President Buhari told the traditional rulers who came to congratulate him on his re-election and discuss issues of specific relevance to the zone, that they were culturally and traditionally positioned to complement government efforts on enhancing security in the Niger Delta.
He, therefore, charged them to educate the youths on the dangers such nefarious activities posed to the environment and the economy.
He said, ‘‘You need to educate the people that the destruction of installations is hurting the majority of the people.
‘‘If pipelines are blown and the waters are polluted, it affects both the fishermen and farmers. Even the fishes in the sea are affected.
‘‘These people who blow up the installations are hurting the people more than they are hurting the government.”
President Buhari also decried the spate of kidnapping in the area, urging the royal fathers not to relent in their support to security agencies to effectively contain the negative trend.
Responding to an inquiry by the group on 10 per cent equity participation for host communities in solid minerals and whether the same was applicable to the oil sector, President Buhari said: ‘‘The constitution is very mindful of the way resources are shared. The 13 per cent derivation means that relative to whatever you are producing, 13 per cent is given to your States.
‘‘Then, whatever is offshore in the continental shelf belongs to the nation. Again your States get their own shares. This means your constituencies get two shares, the 13 per cent derivation and the balance in the continental shelf, which is shared among the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
‘‘If the 13 per cent or what is in the continental shelf is not getting to you then I think by now you ought to have known because you have qualitative leaders with great antecedents.
‘‘For example, when I was a junior officer, one of the royal fathers here was Governor of a State.
‘‘Everybody knows him and he has continuously been in the limelight of the politics of the country, and if the Federal Government is cheating you by denying you part of the 13 per cent derivation or the balance from the continental shelf, you as the leadership ought to have seen it by now and brought it out.’’
On Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the President told the Forum that his administration was mindful of the core mandate of the commission.
‘‘We are concerned about the leadership of NDDC and we hope that money which is constitutionally allocated to it is properly utilised for infrastructure in the area.
‘‘Be assured that we are very mindful of the conditions in your area and how strategic your geopolitical zone is to the economy and stability of the country,’’ the President said.
Congratulating the President on his re-election, Daukoru said: ‘‘In exercise of our role as traditional rulers, we plead with all those who are unhappy with the imperfections of our electoral process to graciously transcend their grievances and to join the immense task we all face of building a secure and prosperous Nigeria.’’
A prepared text presented by the Royal Father on behalf of the Forum raised the issue of Niger Delta security, economic development, infrastructure, environment and oil sector matters.
On oil sector matters, King Daukoru said: ‘‘Mr President, we think it is time to hold operators accountable for their lack of transparency in community development programmes.’’
The traditional ruler accused the operators, among others, of ‘‘polarising communities and by-passing traditional authority by pandering to the interest of bully boys and their local militia.’’
Speaking on behalf of Bayelsa Elders’ Council, HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff (former military governor, old Rivers State), the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass Kingdom, appealed for more tangible Federal presence in Bayelsa.
He urged the Federal Government to give priority attention and award contracts for Ogbia-Nembe-Brass Road, Yenegoa-Oporoma-Ukubie-Koluama Road and Sagbama-Ekeremor-Agge-Road.
According to the Royal Father, the contracts for the construction of these roads were awarded by him 50 years ago as military governor, but nothing much had happened.