Delta wades into threat by Ijaw, Itsekiri communities to shut down oil facilities

…says dialogue best to achieve demands

Following the expiration of an ultimatum given to the Federal Government by the Ijaws of Gbaramatu Kingdom and 30 Itsekiri communities in Warri South West council area of Delta state, the State Government has called for dialogue in order to achieve the demands.

Commending the peaceful protests by the Gbaramatu Ijaw and the Itsekiri communities, the state government noted that proceeding with the planned shutdown may strain “fruits” already yielding from dialogues with the Federal Government over some of the concerns raised.

Both groups had given 10 days ultimatum to the Federal Government to commence process to meet their demands, failure of which they threatened to shutdown oil and gas operations in their areas.

Spokesman of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, in a letter last week, listed their demands to include the relocation of the Floating Dock/Ship Yard to Okerenkoko, restart the multi-billion naira Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP), Ogidigben and the Deep Seaport, Okenrekoko.

The people, while alleging neglect of the current administration, had also demanded resumed work on the abandoned Omadino-Excravos Road Project, as well as consideration as host communities in the bid for the 57 Marginal Fields.

The Itsekiri communities cited similar demands, including being given the “right of first refusal” in the bid for the 57 Marginal Fields, in a statement by Mr. Samuel Besidone, spokesman for Itsekiri oil and gas producing communities.

The oil producing communities vowed to shut down oil operations, if the Federal Government continues to ignore their demands.

But Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, in a statement, appealed to the Ijaws of Gbaramatu and the Itsekiri oil producing communities to cancel the planned shut down for a win-win strategy in the state government’s engagement with its Federal counterpart.

“I personally appeal that the oil communities consider jettisoning the idea of shutting down oil operations, as a birthday gift to our Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, and to enable his team more time to deepen discussions with the appropriate authorities,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to the oil communities for peacefully airing their demands for worldwide attention but added, “I think that resorting now to shutting down oil operations by Ijaw and Itsekiri in place of the present peaceful path would be seen as confrontational owing to the present financial situation of the FG which the Gbaramatu people acknowledged in their own protest.

“It would additionally cripple Federal Government capacity to address our clearly legitimate demands and erase outside sympathy for the cause. It could lead our vulnerable people, thereby deprived of world sympathy to be on collision course with the FG.

“The world has been watching the commendably peaceful protests by Gbaramatu Ijaw and the Itsekiri over pending demands.

“It has noted the unfair deprivation of the Modular Floating Dockyard (MFD) for training of students of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko. The demand for Escravos Processing Zone (EPZ) or Gas Revolution Industrial Park project is a legitimate quest for benefitting from oil industry funded by their oil.

“The world knows it is unconscionable to deny the oil producing people Oil Mining Licenses (OML) and Marginal Fields generously given to others to their exclusion.

“The world is persuaded that it is immoral to keep the communities in darkness while their oil powers never-dimming lights in premises of the oil companies around.

“Let me assure our people that results-producing dialogue is a process, not an event. Let us keep the peace and the faith. Dialogue has yielded some fruits however slow. The FG has awarded the electrification project that will benefit about 50 communities in the said Escravos area and work is ongoing but need be expedited.

“The Delta State Government Committee on the Modular Floating Dockyard chaired by myself, Commissioner of Finance, as well as Barr. Bosin Ebikeme, Hon. Kelly Penawou amongst others, has not closed discussions with the FG on sending the Modular Floating Dockyard to Okerenkoko area for intended purpose while presently supporting the FG efforts in running the Nigerian Maritime University.

“As a government, we also made helicopter-assisted aerial tour/observations of communities impacted by oil pollution ahead of the dying fishes saga mentioned in the Gbaramatu people’s protest, and commissioned soil/water samples for laboratory investigations to enable us push a strong case for environmental remediation,” Otuaro stated.

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