Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Most of the communities which host oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta are locked out and distressed by the impact of the COVID-19, the legislator representing Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State at the House of Representatives, Preye Oseke has said.
Oseke, who is also the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources stated this in a letter he sent to 24 international oil companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY.
He claimed that palliative measures so far implemented across the country were yet to get to local host communities of oil production facilities.
According to him, most of the communities were facing existential challenges of food security and nutrition due to the lockdown on economic activities across board.
While recognising some of the comprehensive measures taken to ameliorate the impacts of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Oseke, however, inferred that IOCs such as Italy’s Eni and America’s ExxonMobil have directly participated in providing relief to communities and people in their home countries, and could extend such to their host communities in Nigeria.
“The disease has taken its toll on the socio-economic well-being of the people; especially as small and medium scale businesses have been negatively impacted. Indeed, the economic wellbeing of the people have further dwindled thus leaving a distortion in the fabric of these communities.
“Of particular concern is the restriction of travels which has resultantly increased the cost of haulage of food items in the predominantly riverine region, thereby leading to further rise in the prices of goods and services.
“It is worth highlighting that the challenges and dangers host communities are exposed to, presently and in the future, cannot be exhaustively catalogued,” Oseke said in the letter.
He explained that Bayelsa state recently witnessed the laying of foundation for a 200-bed hospital in response to COVID-19 amongst other measure but, “none of the foregoing efforts was directed specifically at host communities of oil and gas facilities.”
“Understanding the enormity of the diverse issues thrown up by the pandemic even in developed societies, it was heart-warming to note complementary interventions by multinational corporations in their home states, regions and countries.
“A case in point was Eni Group’s support to everyone on the front line managing the COVID-19 public health emergency in Italy through a series of major initiatives using their wide-ranging experience gained from healthcare projects around the world.
“In doing this, the group acquired and imported, through a special airlift from China, electro-medical equipment and personal protective equipment for healthcare staff across Italy, as well as sending huge quantities of critically needed surgical and advanced respirator masks to health facilities in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Le Marche, Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia.”