Emma Okonji

The first Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Godwin Omene, has insisted that the Nigerian economy will continue to depend on oil production, provided the country invests more in technology skills that will enable it explore and refine more crude oil that will sustain the economy.

Omene, who was also the first Deputy Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Nigeria, said this in an interview with THISDAY, in Lagos.

He explained: “There is an erroneous belief that Nigerian oil will dry up soon, but I want to correct that general belief, because the truth of the matter is that our country is blessed with natural resources like oil and gas among others, and oil can never be completely dried up.

“It is a natural endowment and nature has made it so. It is good that the country is already diversifying into technology because we need technology skills to discover more oil and also refine more oil that will sustain the Nigerian economy.”

He explained that Nigeria has over 40 billion barrels of crude oil reserve in the ground and that every year, crude oil reserve increases because the country discovers more oil than it actually produces.

He therefore stressed the need for the acquisition of more technological skills among Nigerians that will enable Nigerians to discover more crude oil and to refine more quality oil for export and for internal consumption. “Without technology, we cannot discover more crude oil and without technology we cannot produce quality refined oil,” Omene said.

Reacting to criticisms against previous government for wasting the country’s wealth during the old days of oil boom in the country, Omene said the previous governments made do with what they had then and were able to grow the country’s reserve to a reasonable level.

According to him, industries were built like petroleum refineries, steel plants, post and telecommunication companies and textile companies, which were generating income for government then, and at the same time created jobs for Nigerians and non-Nigerians.

He, however, said the challenge then was about the issue of mismanagement and non-maintenance of those infrastructure, which he said, led to the collapse of most of the industries, which he attributed to corruption that the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to fix.

Addressing youth restiveness in the Niger-Delta region, Omene called on the federal government to revisit its amnesty programme, which he said, helped in disarming the boys who hitherto carried fire arms and other dangerous weapons in the creeks.

“With the amnesty programme in place, the boys surrendered and returned their arms and government re-trained them in various skills and some were even trained abroad, but by the time the programme was gaining momentum, the present government stopped it for reasons best known to it, which resorted to the youths returning to the creeks and carrying arms against government.

“Therefore, government must address the concerns of the youths and the community in order to bring lasting peace to the region,” Omene said.

The NDDC, according to him, was set up to address all issues emanating from the Niger-Delta area, with regards to oil pollution, and to empower the communities.

“As the first Managing Director of NDDC, I worked towards attaining the purpose for which NDDC was set up, and I believe other managing directors that came after me, did the same thing,” Omene said.