The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has set up new plans that could bring to an end militancy and oil assets vandalism in the Niger Delta, writes Chineme Okafor
In his recent monthly podcast, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, unveiled a 20-point agenda aimed at establishing permanent peace in the Niger Delta, the country’s oil-producing region, which has in the last one year, seen increased acts of militancy disrupt oil production from it.
According to him, militancy in the Niger Delta has deprived the country and the region a lot of benefits from the oil industry. He said his new 20-point agenda would adopt approaches that could reverse these trends and bring back the benefits to all stakeholders in the region.
The minister noted that at the height of the militancy, Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil revenue as attacks on facilities slashed oil production from 2.2 million barrels per day (mbd) to 1mbd in 2016. This was further made serious by low oil prices.
To tackle the scourge, he said his ministry would in collaboration with relevant stakeholders embark on a fresh campaign focused on periodic micro-based productive engagements with all stakeholders in the Niger Delta, inter-agency collaboration on the development of the region, ring-fenced state approach to security of the communities and production assets, and investments inspired by peaceful conditions.
He also explained that within the agenda, one modular refinery would be built in each of the Niger Delta states, with 100,000 jobs created over the next five years from focused investments in gas for electricity generation.
The minister, however, noted that the success of the agenda would be determined by a peaceful Niger Delta, and that states or communities that balk on providing peaceful conditions for the agenda would be denied its benefits while those with remarkable showings would get more in reward for their constructive cooperation.
Captioned “Oil Sector Militancy Challenges…Roadmap to Closure,” Kachikwu said in his podcast that with the Niger Delta crisis and a 45 per cent drop in oil production, Nigeria faced a tough financial time in 2016. He stated that the government had very little revenue to work with and that the new agenda would be holistic in addressing issues of revenue drops from acts of militancy.
According to him, the attacks on oil and gas facilities and sub-optimal performance of the refineries meant that Nigeria could not meet its international obligations across board and with oil operators.
He noted that despite several efforts by successive administrations to tackle the militancy in the Niger Delta, a permanent solution was yet to be found. He was thus confident that his 20-point agenda would from its planned consistency in engagements, achieve a final closure on this.
“The problem has been the absence of consistency, even before President Obasanjo’s administration and it went on with other governments – Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s,” he said, while identifying past steps like the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the 13 per cent derivation for oil producing states, which were taken to end the region’s development crisis.
He said the present administration has also made efforts to end the crisis by launching a seven-point roadmap, engaging the oil-producing communities and sustaining the Amnesty Programme for the repentant militants.
According to him, efforts to sustain the programme were however, being hampered by declining oil revenue as the present administration only gets 55 per cent of the revenue that was available to previous administrations.
Insisting that the administration is determined to tackle the militancy and achieve peace in the region, Kachikwu noted that it would be bullish in its focus on remedying the environment of the Niger Delta which he said was also rich enough for aqua tourism for revenue generation.
To clean-up the environment, Kachikwu said Buhari would continue to implement his seven-point agenda and other behind-the-scenes engagements of the relevant stakeholders.
The first point on the 20-point agenda he plans to launch, he said, would be for oil companies to engage the state governments and communities on issues affecting a particular state.
The second point he noted would focus on inter-agency collaborations between the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and the Niger Delta, as well as the NDDC on crosscutting development and operational issues of the region.
According to him, the third point would be a ring-fenced approach to ending the militancy. On this, he stressed that the Federal Government would stop dealing with militancy as a national issue and adopt a state-by-state approach to ending it on the ground that each state in the region appeared to have peculiar challenges that prompt militancy in their areas.
Kachikwu also said government would focus on creating 100,000 jobs in each of the oil-producing states in the Niger Delta in the next five years, while the Amnesty Programme would be decentralised because the Federal Government could no longer fund the programme alone as a result of dwindling oil revenue.
Another plan under the agenda Kachikwu said would be adopted was the “Security Holds Hands Approach”, which he said was aimed at strengthening security in the region through the collaboration of all the relevant agencies.
He also identified peace and investment initiatives as another focus in the new agenda. He stressed that peace encourages investment, while crisis serves as a disincentive to investment, and that the agenda would encourage states in the region to continue to pursue peace in exchange for improved investment.
The minister equally added that there would be a core business focus wherein the Federal Government will continue to attract business opportunities to the Niger Delta, stressing that at the core of the militancy was the lack of economic opportunities for inhabitants of the region to earn decent lives for themselves and their families.
He said the setting up of cottage industries and business startups in the region will encourage violent agitators to shun militancy and engage in business activities that will earn them good incomes.
Another item on the agenda, he said, would be for the government to focus investments on gas-to-power projects for steady power supply in the Niger Delta.
Kachikwu said that oil companies would be encouraged to embark on revamping oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta, in addition to focusing on the “clean-up of our mess”. He noted, in this respect, that the government had launched the Ogoni clean-up exercise which should restore the environment of Ogoni land.
Other aspects of the 20-point plan included the domestication of oil and gas business opportunities to achieve greater participation of the people of the oil-producing region without excluding other Nigerians.
In addition, he said a development fund will be launched and foreign investors would be attracted to the region.
He said the government would also encourage education programmes in the Niger Delta to make the people embrace education and shun militancy. He stated that the Amnesty Programme would be launched on a state-by-state basis to create opportunities for 5,000 to 10,000 youths in each states of the region.
Further on security and peace, Kachikwu explained that ensuring justice for all the stakeholders in the region would be the major plank of the agenda, while the government would continue to strengthen the military and other security agencies to maintain peace as it would no longer accept instances of militants holding the country to ransom.
Also, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, said the government’s efforts in addressing the Niger Delta challenges would require additional teamwork from stakeholders like International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the region.
Mohammed, in an interview with Arise Network, specifically stated that IOCs in the region will have to show reasonable acts of responsibility in the clean-up of the region’s environment.
She noted that the volume of work required to restore the region’s environment was enormous, and could not be done by the government alone.
The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government will update the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on the devastation of the environment of Ogoni land which was released in 2011, to enable it to do a detailed clean-up of the environment.
According to her, the government welcomed the $1 billion pledged by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for the clean-up of Ogoni, but was expecting other IOCs in the country to also show their commitment to the clean-up efforts.
Mohammed said the state of damage in the Niger Delta was immense, and that SPDC’s pledge will unlikely go anywhere. She said, in this regards, that the government was challenged by the works ahead of it.
“I look at the wider Niger Delta and its clean-up in the long term, I think it is going to be incredibly difficult because what we have seen over the last couple of years is an increased amount of pollution that has come from illegal and third-party activities and I am not sure we have assessed the damage to know how much or long that is going to take if at all, it is tragic,” said Mohammed.
She then said on expected commitments to funding and operational ethics by the IOCs: “I don’t think it is too late, it is never too late to start to rebuild the lives of people in Ogoni land and any other place. Is it enough? Unlikely and so I think as we start now, we will look at the UNEP report and try to update it so we see what is ahead of us. Ogoni is a small island in all of these pollutions in the Niger Delta, we are absolutely challenged by what we have ahead of us, and there has to be better partnership between the tiers of government.”
“Some would have to improve on their behaviours, the oil companies didn’t come here and leave the environment the way they met it, and I think they have to be responsible for that. Our regulatory agencies have also not done the job they have to do and other multinationals have to do something about the environmental pollution in the Niger Delta,” the minister added.