By Michael Eboh
The delay in the commencement of the $20 billion Gas Revolution Industrial Project, Ogidigben, Delta State and the deep seaport and industrial park in Gelegele, Edo state, has been blamed on the Federal Government and host communities, who have consistently deployed various antics to frustrate the realization of these projects.
This was the view of experts in Abuja, at the screening of a documentary, with the theme: ‘The impact of corruption and conflict on investments in the energy rich Niger Delta communities’, organized by a Civil Society Organisation, the African Initiative for Transparency, Accountability and Responsible Leadership, AfriTAL.
In his submission, a consultant to AfriTAL, Mr. Zibima Tubodenyefa, stated that most of the blames would go to host communities, especially as certain individuals, which he identified as conflict entrepreneurs, had consistently frustrated peace in the communities for their selfish interests.
He stated that the Gelegele and Ogidigben projects had failed to get off the ground mainly because of host communities differences and conflicts and partly because of the policy of the government.
Also speaking, another energy expert, Mr. Charles Majomi, stated that with the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities across Africa, investors are no longer queuing up to come invest in Nigeria.
He noted that the issue of conflict entrepreneurialism was one of the reasons investors no longer want to invest in the Nigerian petroleum industry.
He said, “Not one drop of gas has been produced in that Ogidigben axis despite millions of dollars that had been spent there. We keep seeing this recurring issue, it keeps happening time and time again. If we do not develop a format to hold government accountable to good governance in the sector, our research would just be an academic exercise and everything would evaporate with time.”
However, a Catholic priest and environmental expert, Fr. Edward Obi, blamed the government for the crisis, for making policies without consulting the communities and the people to be affected by those policies.
He said, “Our problem is that the oil and gas industry and the method of governing the industry is not transparent and not predictable. Even the plans that government has in place, the communities do not even know about them. If here is a little bit more transparency, engagement of the people and utilization of the community voices to inform them of happenings, we would have gone a significant distance.
“We are in a country where the oil industry has been sequestered from the communities. The oil and gas industry and our governance of the industry is not transparent.
Obi insisted that religious centres in the Niger Delta should be utilised as agents of change in the region, as well as civil society organizations.
Speaking in the same vein, Professor Solomon Adeleye, a consultant with AfriTAL, also disclosed that the current structure in the Nigerian petroleum industry was not sustainable, mainly because the country is not investing in the sector.
“We are selling crude oil, but we are not adding any value to it. We should not extend that to the gas sector. We should add value to gas before exporting it,” he cautioned.
On her part, Faith Nwadishi, Executive Director, Centre for Transparency and Advocacy, CTA, called for more involvement of women in the communities decision making processes, especially as the impact of activities in the oil industry mostly affects women.