By Davies Iheamnachor
BILLE, an oil-producing kingdom in Degema Local Government Area, Rivers State, whose youths are notorious for oil bunkering, has blamed the development on marginalisation and neglect by government.
Although the community has resolved to change the narrative, Governor Nyesom Wike has directed leaders of the community and other affected towns to report the oil thieves in their domains to appropriate security agencies for necessary action or government would withdraw benefits meant for them.
NDV gathered that the kingdom at a summit recently, unveiled a blueprint for development of the kingdom within the next two decades, targeting total transformation in 2040.
The kingdom has two oil fields with a total annual production capacity of 6,886,984 bbls of crude oil and 6,880,757 mscf of gas (NNPC Annual Statistical Bulletin of 2010) in its territory with a population of over 75,000 people, but no reasonable source of livelihood, which made the young ones susceptible to illegitimate activities detrimental to the oil industry.
Vice-Chairman of Bille Kingdom Council of Chiefs, Chief Ibitamino Minapakama, who is the acting Amanyanabo, said: ”Let me put on records that if Bille Kingdom has been extremely aggressive as perceived by the public, it is due to its negative experiences, gross marginalisation and utter neglect which bred frustration.”
He said many youths of the community were jobless and frustrated because there is no means of livelihood.
He added: “However, the narrative is changing. Let me give two instances: distribution of wards in our local government, in 1976, and thereabout when Bille and Ke/Abissa constituted one ward in the old Degema Local Government Area. Bille alone had 33 polling units by its voting strength.
“This was reduced to 15 polling units in 1983. Again, they further reduced to nine units just to further strangulate the Bille Kingdom politically. In the bigger Degema, we had relevance, but in the smaller new Degema Local Government, they made us irrelevant.
”Bille chieftaincy stools predate all the chieftainships in the old Degema Council(now Degema, Asari-Toru and Akuku-Toru Local Government areas). In the 1980s, the only recognised stools in the old Degema were the Amanyanabo of Kalabari and the Amanyanabo of Bille, but wrongly captured in Nigerian Year book of 1985 as Amadabo.
“Today, the Amanyanabo of Bille stool (currently gazetted as Amadabo of Bille) is still third class, while first, second and third class recognition had been given to stools in almost all the communities in these local governments.”
Governor Wike, represented by Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Damiete Miller, disclosed that the report submitted to him by the committee set up by government to investigate the reason for bad air in the state indicted Bille Kingdom.
He said: ”It is true to know that the Committee on Soot has submitted report of their findings. It will shock you to know that Bille is one of the communities indicted. What are you doing? We want your assistance in that way.
”Any pipeline vandalised is economic sabotage to the government. The people of Bille should assist to ensure that Bille is free from illegal refining because that is where the money to develop the community will come from.
“Fish out those behind all these crimes and hand them over to government. Any community where crimes are noticed, benefits due them will be withdrawn. Report the youths causing crime to government so that government will take appropriate steps to bring them to book.”