By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Youths in the Niger Delta region have threatened to take legal action against Africaâ€™s richest man, Aliko Dangote, over the location of his proposed refinery in Lagos instead of the region.
The youths, under the aegis of Niger Delta Youths Leaders Administrative Council (NDYLAC), said the location of the refinery outside the Niger Delta region contravenes the Nigerian Content Act.
In aÂ statement issued yesterday in Port Harcourt and jointly signed by Magnus Uche and Pobewei Abie, chairman and secretary respectively, the NDYLAC said the location of the worldâ€™s biggest refinery in Lagos other than the Niger Delta region where the raw materials are sourced amounted to â€œcontinuous enslavement of the people of the Niger Delta areaâ€.
They argued that the US$18billion which has been sunk into the laying of subsea oil and gas pipelines alone to connect the raw materials from the region to Lagos would deny the unemployed youths more than 5000 jobs, thereby increasing the rate of poverty in that part of the country.
Describing the proposal as â€œanti-Niger Deltaâ€, NDYLAC vowed that it would â€œtake every legal means to ensure that Aliko Dangote rescind his decision of citing refinery in Lagos.
â€œOur people have suffered untold hardship over the years and this cannot be allowed to continue again.
â€œThe intention of Dangote in collaboration with the Nigerian government to deny us of another opportunity of improving the economic situation of the Niger Delta by taking the refinery to an already developed Lagos State, is unacceptable and we will vehemently resist the decision in any way legally possibleâ€, the group said.
The youth group expressed the fear that if Dangote, who they alleged has not done much in the Niger Delta in terms of industrialisation, was allowed to go ahead with the refinery, it would make him to become â€œa demi-god in the oil industry thereby subjecting other key players in the oil and gas sector to insignificant participants.
They said: â€œIf this is allowed, Dangote will lord it over the NNPC. We cannot allow this enslavement.
â€œIt also means that the future of the Niger Delta will continue to be bleak. The pipeline jobs will be no more. Unemployment will increase while poverty escalate. We need more refineries in the Niger Delta. The Kaduna refinery was supposed to be built in Benin in 1974 but they took it to the north
â€œThe US$18billion Dangote refinery can afford us five to six functional refineries in the Niger Delta region. It will create over ten thousand jobs and thereby improve the living standard of the region in generalâ€.
NDYLAC also berated the former President, Goodluck Jonathan who laid the foundation for indigenous refinery and failed to take advantage of that opportunity by ensuring that it was located in the Niger Delta region.
The group called on the Niger Delta political leaders including the governors, ministers, senators and House of Assembly members in all the states to stand up to the occasion to ensure that Dangote reversed the decision of locating the 660,000 barrel per day capacity refinery outside the region
â€œOur leaders must work together and prevail on Dangote from carrying out this plan. At the same time, they must improve on the general economy of the region,â€ they said.