Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has said that about $60 billion investments had been attracted to the sector since 2016.
Kachikwu spoke at the weekend in Bayelsa State, against the backdrop of insinuations that there has not been any meaningful development in the oil and gas industry since 2016.
The minister, who was in Emeyal 1, Ogbia Local Government, for the ground-breaking ceremony for the 25-hectare Nigeria Oil and Gas Park Scheme (NOGAPS), initiated by the Nigeria Content Development Board (NCDMB), maintained that the sector was struggling for survival when he became minister.
According to him, with investment in the oil and gas sector hitting $60 billion, away from zero investment in 2016, the fruits of the funds pumped into the sector would soon begin to manifest.
The minister added that achieving peace in the Niger Delta was a major milestone for the oil and gas sector in the country, noting that since calm returned to the region, daily production had more than doubled.
â€œA lot of times, I hear people wonder what has happened over the last three years. Without getting into politics, this sector has delivered many times over.
We have built our institutions, the NCDMB, NNPC, and the DPR. These institutions were not what they were when we came. We have revolutionised the need for the sector to be open to communities where they work and to the Nigerian populace that own the assets. We have found the peace to go back to oil production from a very all-time low number of about 800,000 barrels to today in excess of 2,000, 000 and still striving to go upward. Because of the ingenious financing concept we put in place, the oil industry has taken a big and new leap,â€ he added.
â€œOver the next 2-4 years, projects like Egina, Zabazaba, projects like Bonga South, Nigeria LNG 2 to Nigeria LNG 7, we are about to see investment in excess of 60 billion dollars in the industry. Realise that before these, before 2016, the investment in the sector had ebbed to zero. And oil companies were basically operating reflex production. There is a massive investment in the oil sector now. With those investments will come jobs, with those jobs will come peace and without peace, no development. A lot is going on and a lot still needs to happen; major policy changes and major regulatory changes in the worksâ€, he added.
Kachikwu urged the contractors handling the project to be sensitive to the needs of the communities where they operate, arguing that host communities are largely peaceful if they are continually engaged.
â€œA lot of times, we take the local community for granted. But actually when you look at it, they ask for very little. You do celebration, they come and dance, they provide a peaceful environment. All they ask for is decent health schemes, decent opportunities. Governments in Nigeria need to collectively realise that the important people really are the 80 or 90 percent local populace who are usually very simple, ordinary, non-demanding, very focused and less the intelligentsia who are usually very complicated to manage,â€ he added.
While declaring that the President as well as the Vice President completely believed in the project, Kachikwu thanked the community for the cooperation given the NCDMB and assured that the project will not be abandoned.
They (contractors) will ensure that this is not one of the projects that is started and abandoned. I donâ€™t go to project sites unless contractors show me the track to completion. I donâ€™t want to be one of the ministers who when they leave, they have a glossary of abandoned projects. I have to be remembered for completed projects. We will complete this one in record time.â€
He called on those in charge of building the oil and gas park to ensure indigenous companies take charge of the fabrication and others which he said was capable of providing over 3000 jobs.
He also advised governors from the region to look inwards and take full advantage of the peculiarities of the resources available to them by building infrastructure cutting across the states and beneficial to their citizens.
â€œThere is no change without the kind of change which I envisage where the committee of South South governors will sit down and see how to develop the South South to the point where they have economic independence from the centre.
â€œWhich means that cross-border developments, cross-border roads , cross-border specialisation areas in health , finance , education and the rest can be doneâ€, Kachikwu said.
The Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, urged the community not to disrupt the project, warning that it would be taken elsewhere if work is unduly stopped.
â€œIf you donâ€™t create the enabling environment for this project to succeed in line with the plan , the only conclusion to draw is that you donâ€™t like the future of your children . If you destroy and disrupt a project like this, we conclude that you donâ€™t want to plan for your children. Donâ€™t forget that so many communities are looking forward to this kind of huge project. The very minute we cannot operate from this place I will not hesitate to move elsewhere. Therefore, see this as your project,â€ he explained.
â€œThis project will not tolerate a situation where people donâ€™t want to work but all they want to is to become ghost workers earning salaries where they have not sown. That, we will not tolerate with regard to this projectâ€, Wabote said.