Chineme Okafor in Abuja
As part of its 2017 target to ensure zero militancy and drastic reduction of violence in the Niger Delta, which affect Nigeria’s oil production, the federal government has indicated that it would set up a specialised petroleum force, comprising coastal patrol teams, Niger Delta subsidiary police, and other paramilitary set-ups.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed this shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari launched his government’s policy document for the country’s oil and gas sector – the seven big wins in Abuja.
Kachikwu, who spoke during the post-event press briefing noted that the specialised force would complement whatever efforts and mechanisms oil companies would put in place to secure their production assets and activities.
Besides, he gave reasons why the planned co-location of new refineries alongside existing ones in Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri was taking long to be concluded as well as the delay in having a Final Investment Decision (FID) on Train-7 expansion project of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
The minister had initially stated that under a new security arrangement, the government planned to pull out the country’s military from the Niger Delta region and allow oil companies set up their own security processes to safeguard their production.
He also stated that the specialised force would be amphibious in character and equipped to support the security efforts of the oil companies.
According to him, some participants in the current Amnesty Programme for former Niger Delta militants would be incorporated into the force as the government looks to close down the programme in 2017.
“All over the world, oil companies take care of their facilities. The presidency has also agreed to look at the possibility of setting up a specialised petroleum force that is going to draw on the elites of the security services, and be provided with resources that are amphibious, that are technology-driven to enable them to be able to respond to the request of the oil companies if they get overwhelmed outside their first line security,” Kachikwu said.
He further stated that, “The government is looking critically at the amnesty programme and we are looking towards an eventual wind up of the programme in about one year period.
“The whole idea is within that time frame we need to address some issues. We are going to be looking at things like coastal patrols, Niger Delta subsidiary policing and some paramilitary type organisations not armed. You will be able to suck in some of those people who were trained.
“We are also going to provide funding for those who want to set up their own businesses within the corridors of those areas.”
Speaking on the delayed Final Investment Decision (FID) on NLNG Train-7 project, the Kachikwu explained: “Bonny Train-7 is an issue of money. The prices of gas today is low, so anybody who is going to put money into gas development today needs to have very really strong fiscals.”
He noted the government was still committed to the project, saying, “That is not looking very encouraging, but the nice thing is that the NLNG has done very well and has access to be able to get facilities. So, we are going to be working with them on Train-7, as Train-7 is what we have commitment to.
“The president nostalgic feelings are that when they left many years ago, the plan was that 10 years ago, we should have been in Train 12. The fact that we wasted this much time when the prices were really very lucrative and supportive is a shame.”
On the refineries co-location plan, Kachikwu said: “Bids were done, we were almost at the stage of moving in, then we had some issues with the BPE, in terms of whether or not we are trying to sell the refineries indirectly through a different corridor.
“That has been resolved. It was only last week that the president signed for us to set up a committee to collaborate with them and work quickly.”