The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and South-South Elders’ Forum have berated Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, for saying that International Oil Companies (IOCs) cannot relocate to the Niger Delta region due to insecurity and violence.
But National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said Sylva’s argument that the IOCs could not relocate to the Niger Delta Region due to insecurity was not only fallacious, but also provocative.
Sylva had said at the weekend in Abuja that the quest for IOCs to relocate their operational headquarters to the region could not be achieved in an atmosphere of rancour and violence when the Niger Delta Agitators Forum (NDNAF) named him its patron and peace ambassador.
Robinson said Sylva’s position showed that he did not mean well for the Niger Delta Region, adding: “It is unfortunate that Sylva, a bona fide Niger Delta indigene should echo that vexatious chorus.
“The question we would like to ask is whether insecurity is peculiar to the Niger Delta region. Are there no security issues in Lagos and the rest of the country?
PANDEF recalled that Sylva made similar remarks when the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Board, visited Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike in August last year.
“At that instance, the IOCs will relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region when security improves in the region.
“Ironically, the IOCs work and evacuate millions of barrels of oil and gas daily from the region without mentioning insecurity, but they use it as excuse when it comes to relocation of their operational headquarters to the region,” he said.
He lamented that the Niger Delta people had continued to suffer the adverse effects of oil and gas exploration, stressing that the region’s ecosystem and the people’s means of livelihood have been degraded with little or no improvement in their living standard.
“It is worrisome that the Federal Government has continued to show indifference to issues of the region by permitting injustice against the Niger Delta people, thereby denying the region the benefits derivable from the relocation of the IOCs,” he stated.
He said the situation was worsened by Federal Government’s recent relocation of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to Abuja from Lagos giving untenable reasons, instead of relocating to the oil and gas producing states.
“There is a growing feeling of Federal Government’s alienation, marginalisation, neglect, discrimination and injustice against the region. The ramifications may be dire,” he said.
Similarly, National Coordinator of the South-South Elders Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said it was unfortunate that Sylva could say such a thing, adding: “There is insecurity, yet they drill our oil forgetting about the insecurity, but when it comes to relocation, they remember that there is insecurity.
“Agip, Shell operational offices have been no security threats, is it because the Niger Delta people are peaceful, if they feel that there is insecurity in the region, they should not operate at all but as long as they operate in the region, they should not mention insecurity.”