former militant leader in the Niger Delta, Mr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben
A former militant leader in the Niger Delta, Mr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben, popularly known as General Boyloaf, has urged the Senate to stop its investigation of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 deal and concentrate on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has already abrogated discretionary award of oil blocks.
The ex-war lord also decried the rising cases of oil theft and pipeline vandalism and commended the federal government for awarding contracts for pipeline surveillance to leaders of ex-militants and host communities, saying communities where pipelines cut across should be engaged to watch over these assets.
In a statement on the state of the nation, the former militant leader also alleged that politicians had hijacked the well-conceived amnesty programme in the Niger Delta for their selfish interest, saying the current programme was not the vision of the programme the ex-militants agreed upon when they surrendered their arms and accepted amnesty for peace and development.
On the controversy over the ownership of OPL 245, he stated that the government of the late General Sani Abacha awarded numerous oil blocks inclusive of OPL 245 and OPL 246 in 1998.
“In 2001, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked Malabu’s right to OPL 245 forcing Malabu to seek justice in court. Of note, other oil blocks, notably OPL 246 awarded by the late General Sani Abacha was not revoked only OPL 245 owned by Malabu was revoked. In 2002, the Obasanjo government re-awarded OPL 245 to Shell after a competitive bidding. But most interestingly, in 2006, realising the grave injustice meted on Malabu, the same Obasanjo government that revoked Malabu’s right to OPL 245 restored its full right of the oil block, thereby correcting the mistake it made in 2001. While the multinational Shell felt aggrieved and sought relief at the courts in foreign lands as multinationals always do, the matter dragged on and was stalemated. It was only in 2011, after about 14 years of acrimonious litigation that the federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan resolved finally and satisfactorily the various ownership claims of OPL 245 between all contending parties,” he explained.
According to him, up till today, the president has the discretionary power to award oil blocks, except the still born petroleum industry bill is passed into law and states otherwise, changes, amends or removes this prerogative powers from the president.
He urged the National Assembly not to reopen an already determined case, adding that between 2002 and 2003, the House of Representatives spent millions of tax payers’ money over a period of 10 months investigating what the Nigerian media sensationalised as the “Malabu Scandal.”
“They had numerous sittings, collected memoranda from all interested parties and the public and indeed wrote and submitted a report, yet shamefully 10 years down the line and after the Federal Government of Nigeria brokered an out-of-court settlement, the Nigerian Senate is still investigating OPL 245,” he added.
On President Jonathan’s 2015 ambition, the ex-militant said the decision to run for a second term was solely that of the president, stressing that if he so wishes, he should be allowed by the constitution to run.