By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF) has issued four months ultimatum to Federal government to withdraw all oil licenses or face hostility.
The group also advised the Federal government to remove Senator Godswill Akpabio as Minister of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and inaugurate new board.
In a statement signed by the General Nkarijo WAribo and Capt. Victor Eyoh on Thursday, the group condemned what it called the continued silence of the Federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari concerning various issues affecting the region, among which are rot in the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and government’s failure to checkmate the discriminatory posture of owners of oil blocs regarding the development of the oil producing communities in the region.
According to the statement, the group faulted the discretionary award of oil licenses to individuals based on political loyalty and ethnic sentiments, insisting that the status quo must change.
‘‘From records at our disposal, aside from the discretionary award of oil licenses to most of the individuals based on political loyalty, ethnic sentiments, etc., it has been observed that most of them have been holding on to Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPL) longer than the required period of five (5) years for Offshore areas & Shallow waters and ten (10) years for Deep Offshore/Inland Basins, and the Oil Mining Lease (OML) beyond the mandatory period of thirty (30) years, respectively.
“Some were issued licenses since 1987 which amounts to over 33 years of their ownership and control of the oil blocs. While, they have continued to enrich themselves from their control of the oil wells, they have left the oil communities devastated and impoverished by refusing to contribute to the development of the States / communities where they operate.
‘‘We consider the laissez-faire posture of the Presidency concerning the recent NDDC corruption saga as not very healthy for the nation as Nigerians and foreigners are expectantly waiting to see how the Presidency is going to handle the show of shame displayed by top APC actors from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission and the National Assembly.
‘‘The can of worms made wide open by ardent criminal-minded appointees of the Federal government in the above-mentioned agencies and commissions in the last few months where the appointed officials openly defended their outrageous expenditures, has made the country the laughing stock of other nations in the African continent and beyond.
“This current scenario has gone to confirm the former British Prime Minister’s (David Cameron’s) declaration that Nigeria is “fantastically corrupt”. Even the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) set up to fight corruption, is also fantastically corrupt,’’ it said.
They argued that in a more civilized and transparent nation, where it is not mere lip service that is paid to the anti-corruption crusade, those who were involved in the entire NDDC corruption drama, including the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the IMC members of the Commission as well as all indicted members of the National Assembly, would have been suspended from office, and immediately arrested and prosecuted, not minding their political affiliations, to face the law.
They therefore demanded for immediate withdrawal of oil licenses from companies that had held them for over twenty years; immediate removal of Senator Godswill Akpabio from the position of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; immediate dissolution of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC and reconstitution of a new substantive Board for the Commission and immediate arrest and prosecution of all public officers who were involved in the financial recklessness that occurred in the NDDC, the Presidential Amnesty Programme and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The NDVF also demanded that government should take immediate action to underscore its genuine anti-corruption stance or posture and to guard against the popular legal maxim that “Justice delayed is justice denied” as many Nigerians seem to believe right now that the entire issue will obviously swept under the carpet as long as the “dramatis personae” are top APC stalwarts.’’
It equally urged the Federal government to urgently direct all the oil companies doing business in the Niger Delta region to relocate to their bases of operation, insisting that they cannot continue to overlook the manner in which the present federal government is treating the Niger Delta region as slaves and second-class citizens.
For them, the region must be given its pride of place as the “goose that lays the golden eggs”, warning that at the expiration of this ultimatum, they shall be left with no other option than to shut down all oil operations in the region as they were already battle ready.