By Ejike Akobundu
Following the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the government was faced with resurgent militancy in the Niger Delta Region characterized by vandalism of pipelines and oil and gas installations. This resulted in a corresponding drop in oil production from about two million barrel per day to slightly less than one million barrels per day. This came against the backdrop of declining prices of oil in the international market with resultant drop in revenues accruing to the nation.
With the support of President Buhari, the Minister of State, Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachikwu initiated series of engagements with the key stakeholders and leaders in the region to explore the option of stabilizing the security situation in the region. So far, some salutary results have been recorded as production has climbed to nearly two million barrels per day.
The government however, seems not to have gone to sleep to see that there is lasting peace and sustainable development of Nigeria’s oil and gas producing areas. This was reechoed recently when the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbanjo reiterated that one of the cardinal objectives of the Buhari administration is the entrenchment of peace and the provision of security to all areas of our nation.
The occasion as the Nigeria Entrepreneurship Summit & Honours (NESH) 2017 Oil and Gas Roundtable at the Grand hotel, Asaba, Delta State capital. Osinbanjo said that the theme of the event “Peace and Sustainable Development of Nigeria Oil and Gas Producing Areas” is apt, particularly in the current clime of our nation, adding that for the most part of the year, under the directive of President Buhari he has had series of engagements with communities in the Niger Delta.
Osinbajo who was represented by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu said their administration is committed to tackling the prevailing concerns of the Niger Delta region.
He said that the targets will ensure robust sustainable development of the Nigerian oil and gas producing area, thereby fostering peace and prosperity. In the words of the Vice President, “One of these targets set is a framework for stabilizing the entire Niger Delta region. Huge efforts are being exerted by this administration to ensure that violence and restiveness in these areas remain a thing of the past”.
“You are also aware of our efforts to aid development and employment in the oil producing areas through the modular refineries initiative. Government has engaged with numerous entrepreneurs, international and local investors aiming to partake in such an exciting initiative”.
The concept of modular refineries, he said stems from the need to stop illegal refining known to contribute substantially towards the damage of the environment of the oil and gas producing areas.
“It is our hope the NESH team and partners will align with these initiatives through individual and collective contribution of knowledge, technical expertise and direct investment”.
He said the Federal Government is ready to provide the enabling business environment, the right incentive and other targeted support, required to realise these aspirations.
Commenting on the developments in the oil and gas sector, Kachikwu warned the country on the price of oil, saying that there are no guarantees currently that the oil price will remain sustained at the over 50 Dollars per barrel that Nigeria has managed.
Kachikwu also said that Nigeria really needs Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) intervention to keep it going, adding that there is need to begin to drive down cost because that is where Nigeria has the unique advantage.
On the initiatives to get the industry on track, Kachikwu pointed out that infrastructure is key in the industry.
“Our infrastructure is faulty. All our pipelines are 40 to 50 years old and they have served their time. We need to begin to build the infrastructure but that one isn’t going to come from government. We are going to look for the private sector to carry investment in that area.
He however, made it known that environmental and security concerns are also some of the major challenges.
While the government is diversifying, the minister advised Nigerians to venture into investment no matter how small it is; stressing that such businesses are the saving graces of the major economies of the world.
“It mustn’t be a mega project done by government or the oil industry; it could be small projects done by you and I; it could be not more than four to five companies employing five to 10 people that are littered all over the place with minimal capacity. These are the saving graces of the major economies of the world”, he said.
The minister equally observed that without oil Asaba can contribute a lot to Nigeria as the city has a lot of potentials. One such potential will come from the dredging of the second Niger which, he disclosed, will create a hub in the state capital. To this end, he said that NCNDP is already planning to build an industrial park in Asaba. He also said a budding movie industry environment is growing in Asaba, adding that most of the Nollywood personalities are now shooting in Asaba, a development, he said, has to be harnessed by the people.
“A lot is happening and there lies the survival of this country: those small restaurants, cab services and hair salons. Time has now come when every Nigerian family should have a company of their own, specific for little services that will keep them going. That is what we need to be doing increasingly. There is too much waiting for government and that is creating the problem of lack of speedy growth”.
Declaring the Summit Open, Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said that time calls for sober reflection on the challenges of transforming the Niger Delta.
The governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Mr. Mofe Pirah warned that economic potentials do not begin and end in oil but in diversification. He said with diversification, Niger Delta will be able to have resources that will enable the area to create a window to launch into other areas such as agriculture and tourism.
In his own views at the Summit, Managing Director/CEO of Bank of Industry (BoI) Mr. Olukayode Pitan said that there is no reason why there should be poverty in Nigeria, adding that Nigeria was far better than the components parts of the United Arab Emirates.
He said that if Nigeria implements laid down plans, we should all be in the promise land earlier than we thought, just as he advised that Nigeria has to transform its natural resources to transform into better life of the people which in turn, will mean better quality life expectancy.
The CEO who was represented by Mr. Waheed Olagunju stated that “We have a lot of natural resources like argic, aqua-agriculture, precious stones, solid minerals that can be developed. Other countries thrive on only solid minerals like Zambia which thrives on Copper. We have about 44; all the elements are here. We assure you as BoI that funding will never be a problem. We will manage $200 million meant for local, domestic entrepreneurs in this part of the world. This is to be lent at single digit interest loans. Viability is important because it is only when the project is viable that you have a long term profit. We also give technical assistance from good business models and good business plans.
While commenting, Asagba of Asaba, Obi Prof. Joseph Chike Edozien, said it is a common knowledge that the revenue from oil is dwindling, stressing that what we have today is different from what we use to have in the past.
The first class monarch who was represented by “Oshimili-Atata” of Asaba, Chief Nicholas Onyeogalibudike said “There is need for diversification; if not, we will be left behind. Oil and gas has been our mainstay. It has continued for years to the detriment of host communities. This consciousness is spreading on daily basis”.
While appealing for the passing of Host community bill, Prof Edozien urged “The House has been debating on the Host Community bill. NESH is a roadmap towards bringing this consciousness to the minds of everybody in the Niger Delta. I give kudos to NESH and I urge everybody to give them the required support. This consciousness is going round everybody and I believe it will be surely actualized”.
The roundtable was rounded off with special NESH awards to deserving individuals and entities that had contributed significantly towards the evolving peace in the region. In his own comment, an award recipient and spokesperson of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Gospower Gbenekama said that they were not expecting such award because they never thought any group was noticing what they were doing.
“I am the spokesperson of Gbaramatu Kingdom. I didn’t know that the little things we do are observed by people we don’t know. It goes to show that this one is not for sale. I dedicate the honour to my leader who is incidentally a recipient of the honor, Chief T K Ogoriba”.
Also speaking after the honor and recognition was the Deputy President of South-South, South East Professionals, Mr. Chike Okoroafo who said they are solidly behind the founder of NESH, Mr. Emeka Ugwu-oju, being a past president of the organization.
Okoroafor said the group has a desire to ensure that South-South South East zones work together as a region to grow economically, adding that they give input in the political and economic drivers of their decision makers in the region so that they come out with good policies.
According to Mr. Ugwu-Oju, the initiative is about bringing people together, creating a roadmap and taking action.
Speaking shortly before presentation of plaques to the NESH Peace Honors Recipients, Ugwu-Oju stated that what the body is trying to do is to honor those whose honor is due, pointing out that this particular recognition is not called award but honor to those who played key roles to restore peace and sustainable development of Nigeria’s oil and Gas producing areas.
According to Ugwu-Oju, NESH is trying to see how things can work in Nigeria by bringing people together to address those issues that are critical to national development.
Earlier before the presentation, Ugwu-Oju had said that we have a situation where oil is becoming a history. “We want maximum benefits because oil in the next 10 years, may not be what it used to be; this cannot be achieved without peace”, he said.
Others honoured at the oil and gas Summit include: the Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtrd), HRM, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, Chief T K Ogoriba, dr Andrew Iyamu, Chief Godspower Gbenekama were honored. Others were: Dr. Maikanti Baru, Alhaji Isa Nuwa, Mr Henry Ikem Obih and Barrister Sam Otoboeze.
Others on the list of recipients are Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani and Dr Andrew Iyamu amongst others.
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