By Wilson Macaulay
The Movement for the Development of Itsekiri Oil and Gas Producing Communities, MDIOGPC in a peaceful protest held on the 4th of July 2020 at Ode Ugborodo, Warri South West LGA of Delta State, sent an urgent message of notice to President Muhammadu Buhari of their readiness to shut down international oil and gas companies operating in Itsekiri land if he refuses to address the issue of outright marginalisation of the Itsekiri Nation in projects execution, employment opportunities and the recently announced fifty seven marginal fields offer which does not include sons and daughters of the Itsekiri Nation neither did they give the right of first refusal to us who are fundamental stakeholders as oil and gas producing communities
The group’s protest letter which copied the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Defense Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, DG, DSS, Chevron Nigeria limited, SPDC, the Delta State Governor and the LGA Council Chairman was signed by Isaac Botosan (Chairman), Steven Atete (Secretary) and Maurice lrone (Publicity Secretary) of Itsekiri Oil and Gas Producing Communities (MDIODPC).
Comrade Besidone Samuel Eyengho, Spokesman of the Itsekiri Oil Producing Communities who read the protest letter during the press conference affirmed and asserted that the demands of the Itsekiri Nation are as
“We are calling on the Federal Government to immediately halt the current process of bids for the 57 Marginal Fields and come up with new modalities, where competent companies owned by Itsekiri sons and daughters, would be given “right of first refusal: on fields in our homeland, before being thrown open to outsiders.
If competent companies owned by Itsekiri indigenes are not considered by DPR for the 57 Marginal Fields with immediate effect, we will shut-down operations of the Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies (IOCs) operating in our homelands.
The Federal Government should order immediate resumption of work at the Multi-Billion Dollar Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, GRIP, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port in Warri South- West Local Government Area, Delta State.
Direct the relevant MDAs/IOCs to embark on large scale shore protection/sand-filling projects in Itsekiri riverine/oil producing communities.
Institute process for the facilitation of the abandoned age-long Omadino – Escravos Road.
Oil machineries for commencement of the Koko/Ogheye Road Project, which has remained a mere campaign tool for successive administrations, despite its strategic importance to the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta and the South-West.
We eagerly await speedy action on the aforementioned demands above, to avert fresh crisis in the Oil and Gas Industry and the Niger Delta the statement red.”
The Group acknowledged the realities of Corona Virus pandemic, saying: “We are not oblivious of the damaging socio-economic effects COVID-19 is inflicting on the global economy, particularly our country that has continued to bear the brunt of the volatility of the price of Crude Oil (The Black Gold) at the International Market, despite efforts by OPEC and OPEC + to mitigate the resulting challenge”.
Comrade Besidone Samuel Eyengho explained that: “as a responsive and law abiding Ethnic Nationality committed to the sustainable peace, growth and development of the Nigerian project, we are equally not unmindful of the teething security challenges the Federal Government is confronting headlong across the country, especially in the North East.
“We are however constrained to ventilate our frustration and anger, regarding the brazen and worsening marginalization staring at our face on daily basis by those in charge of managing affairs in the Oil and Gas Sector in this country. By this, we mean the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries such as NAPIMS and DPR.”
The MDIOGPC Group added in their protest letter that the marginalization is also clearly evident in the way and manner the current administration shockingly abandoned the Multi-Billion Dollar Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, GRIP, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port in Warri South- West Local Government Area, Delta State. The GRIP project has the potential to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs as well as boost the economic diversification narrative, a supposed core philosophy of the Federal Government.” .
They attested further that the Itsekiri Nation is at a loss as to why the age-long Omadino – Escravos Road, expected to connect the Oil and Gas- rich Coastal Communities in Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas, remain abandoned till date, despite exploitation of huge natural resources from the area.”
According to the leadership of the MDIOGPC, despite the hue and cry from different Itsekiri groups and professional bodies, urging President Buhari to direct the relevant Federal Government MDAs such as Federal Ministry of Works, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC as well as the Multi-National Oil and Gas Companies, to immediately embark on large scale shore protection/sand-filling projects in Itsekiri riverine/oil producing communities, his administration has continued to play dumb on the exigency to save our riverine/oil producing communities from rampaging Ocean Surge.”
The Group posited that , the Itsekiri people will continue to agonize the apparent aberration of the Local Content Act as it affects direct employment opportunities into Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and other IOCs, operating in our communities alledging that the companies surreptitiously employ non-indigenes and fly them to work in Escravos and other Itsekiri Offshore Locations, while our eminently qualified graduates as well as technicians roam the streets and continue to live at the mercy of their indigent and aging parents.”
The MDIOGPC leadership put it on record that the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality has been grossly marginalized in bid offers, since the discovery of crude oil in our homeland over 60 years ago lamenting that
this is despite the huge environment hazards, poor sanitary conditions, lack of health care facilities and zero federal presence in all Itsekiri oil and gas producing/impacted communities in the Niger Delta.
They pointed out their quantum value saying: “It must be noted that the Itsekiri Nation contributes over 28% of Nigeria’s crude oil & gas resources.
Having established a slice of the strength of our contribution to the commonwealth of the country, we must at this juncture strongly express our displeasure and total rejection of the recently announced 57 Marginal Fields, offered by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.
“We can no longer continue to sit down and watch non-indigenes, being offered oil mining licenses in our homeland, when we have capable Itsekiri sons and daughters, whose firms are qualified, but repeatedly denied such licenses by the sustained-structural bias of the DPR.
“We challenge the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC and its subsidiaries to publish the names/companies that own crude oil blocs in Delta State. Because records available to us, indicate that no indigenous Itsekiri from the oil producing communities has or operates oil bloc in the state, even though the vrude oil and gas resources are exploited in our God-given land.
“The Federal Government often complains of the negative impact the twin evil; crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism across the country (especially the Niger Delta) have on the economy, but suffices to emphasis that the continuous neglect of Itsekiris from oil/gas producing communities by the Federal Government and the non-opening of investment opportunities for our people in the oil and gas sector, can only aggravate crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.”
Also, High Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere (Prime Minister) of Warri Kingdom who spoke briefly to the press said what the protesting oil producing Communities are doing is the assertment of their rights that cannot be taken away from them for the good and betterment of Itsekiri Nation.
The Ologbotsere therfore, advised the FG and all relevant stakeholders to listen to them before things will go out of hand.
Pa Wellinton Ojogor the Egheraja Eldest man of Ugborodo Community and Chairman Ugborodo Council of Elders who also spoke called on the government to hear the request of the Itsekiri Nation without delay.
Chief Mike Odeli the Olorogun of Warri Kingdom, Madam Tsaye Mene, Comrade Joseph Uwawah, Comrade Ogbegbe Misan Director of Operation, Itsekiri National Youth Council and others who spoke averred that enough is enough.
They all concurred in their statements that if the governing authorities refused to meet their demands they will take their destinies in their hands by shuting down international oil and gas companies in Itsekiri without any further notice.
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