By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has appealed to members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) to halt its planned attacks on oil facilities in the region.
Omo-Agege’s appeal came on the heels of recent threats by a coalition of nine militant groups in the Niger Delta region expressing readiness to resume hostilities by attacking oil and gas facilities if the federal government does not meet the demands of #EndSARS protesters across the country.
The Deputy Senate President, who spoke on Wednesday while hosting a delegation of Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON) in Abuja, led by elder statesman, Chief Wellington Okrika, urged the agitators to sheathe their sword and allow peace to reign, assuring them that their demands would be tabled before the Presidency.
He said going ahead with their threat would create economic setback for the country and additional environmental degradation in the area.
The ranking senator stressed that with the nation still battling with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the aftermath of #EndSARS protests, which was hijacked by hoodlums, it cannot afford another militancy problem at the moment.
He said: ”Whatever it is, we must maintain peace in the Niger Delta. I say this in view of the new agitations by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers. We are just coming out of the #EndSARS protest which, of course, we all witnessed how a peaceful protest was hijacked by those with sinister agenda. We are all witnesses to what happened afterwards even when we must acknowledge that in a democracy, protest is a right provided those that do it do so peacefully without abridging the rights of others.
”I urge HOSCON members to go back to our people in the creeks and tell them we are here for them. We are here to champion their request. We don’t want the peace of the Niger Delta to be disturbed or disrupted. We are here to protect the interest of our people.
“Yes, I may be the Deputy President of the Senate today but, I am first of all, a senator representing my people. I am here and I am your own. I am your eye. We shall not disappoint you. Take this commendation to our brothers in the creeks that they have done well in keeping the peace and we will table their request before the authorities as they have channelled that request through me. We shall ensure the right things are done.”
Speaking on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly, Omo-Agege argued that the annual contribution of 2.5 per cent actual operating expenditure by oil companies to the Host Community Development Trust Fund would be increased to, at least, 5 per cent.
He also reiterated his call at the second reading of the bill on the floor of the Senate where he made a case for gas flaring penalties to be paid to the host communities and not the Federation Account.
According to him, the funds would be used to ameliorate the living conditions in Niger Delta communities, as they remain the ones that bear the burden of environmental degradation from the oil industry.
He said: ”That I come from the oil bearing communities is one of the reasons why I am DSP today given our contribution to the economy of the country. It is only natural that I champion anything that would promote the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. The PIB is a very crucial bill. If properly handled it would bring a lot of Foreign Direct Investments into the oil economy.
“This is the best time to take advantage of the oil we have and the best way to do so it to encourage FDIs and this can only be achieved when the Niger Delta is peaceful. That is why I am suing for peace. Let the Niger Delta region begin to look like the region that produces the wealth of the country.”
Earlier in his remarks, Chief Okrika called on the Deputy President of the Senate to intervene in the issues brought before the federal government concerning the PIB, gas flaring, 13 per cent derivation payment to the states instead of the oil bearing communities, the N98 billion gas flare fund and the controversy surrounding the Pipeline Surveillance Contract.
He lauded the legislative interventions of the senator, adding that members were impressed with his contributions not only on issues concerning the Niger Delta but his general contributions on matters relating to national discourse.
The militant groups under the aegis of
Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) had after an emergency meeting in Delta State last week, announced their preparedness to disavow the ceasefire accord with the federal government and engage military forces.
Specifically, they threatened to resume attacks on some identified oil facilities in the region if nothing was done to redress the issues of poor welfare, armed oppression and inequality in the standard of living between the citizens and political elite.