Rivers Political Crisis Blown Out Of Proportion – Akolokwu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Rivers Political Crisis Blown Out Of Proportion – Akolokwu

Posted: Apr 11, 2016 at 3:06 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Prince Shedrack Akolokwu, Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Inter-governmental matters in this interview with Daniel Abia said the crisis in Rivers state is blown out of proportion. He also spoke on other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Why is it difficult for the state government to eliminate the problem of incessant killings in some parts of the state? Will you describe the crisis in the state as politically motivated or cult related?

You have to put issues of security and the so called crisis in their proper perspectives. If you don’t situate them in their historical locations, you will not be able to appreciate the true nature of the so-called crisis. The so called crisis in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area has nothing to do with politics or governance. It has nothing to do with competition for power. Politics generally is a conspiracy of contending forces trying to acquire power for the purpose of exercising authority. In Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government, if you recall is a hot bed of oil and gas in the Niger Delta region. It has thirteen oil and gas fields with more than five hundred and seven oil wells making it the largest single oil and gas producing community in the Niger Delta. These facilities are operated by Shell, Total and Agip. It also hosts a lot of economic activities connected to oil. One hundred percent of the gas fish stock connected to Eleme petrochemical plant comes from Obirikom alone. That is the popular Obrikom Obiofor gas injection plant which (General Mohammadu) Buhari then as a military Head of state in 1985 commissioned. That was the first time an oil company would inject gas, they were flaring it. Today as we speak, it is still the worst heat area in terms of flares. Go to Igboacha, go to Obirikom, go to other communities the story is the same. These are areas that are hosting different gas flares. It is like hell on earth because the area sits on more than one hundred and eighty five trillion standard cubic meters of gas. Gas is produced in association with crude. I explained to you the nature and complexity of economic activities taking place in that enclave. From 1962 when Agip first arrived followed by Safral which later became ELF and later became Total and then Shell which later came to join them in Egbema West and part of Ndoni, their mining lease is 058, 061 and 060 were the concessions given to these companies in the 1960s. This explanation has shown the plethora of economic activities in the area as far as hydrocarbon industry is concerned. 56.6% of the gas going to the NLNG in Bonny comes from that area alone. The little balance comes from Soku and a little from Bonny fields. It shows you that there is enormous potentials in gas and crude oil there. Since 1999 when (Dr. Peter) Odili became governor, the engagement strategy in this area changed. Rather than shut down oil wells, break or harvest pipelines, we decided to do a sustainable engagement strategy that will make the oil companies particularly Total to sit down and discuss with the people on how to engage in sustainable development programs. When the first meeting in 1999 was successful, there was going to be a force majeure by Shell because it was going to lift liquefied gas in Bonny. The people said no, you must negotiate with us. This is no more military rule. We will no longer allow you to treat us the way you did by sending soldiers to come here and maltreat us. This is democracy. If you recall, (Olusegun) Obasanjo came here in 1999 June 11, less than two weeks after he was sworn in as President to come and negotiate with the Niger Delta militants for them to lift the siege on oil fields so that Bonny will have gas to lift in October 1, 1999.

So what happened after the meeting?

After that meeting, the governor commissioned us to initiate peace meeting between the communities and the oil companies. From July 9 to July 29, we met every day with the various segment of the companies. We extracted series of agreements with the oil companies. That was the first time the oil companies agreed to employ graduates from Engineering, Petroleum, mechanical etc from the local government areas. Total agreed to employ three people every year in those areas. Graduates in those areas including one of them who was the best graduate from UNIPORT and was teaching in a secondary school, left and joined the Total oil company. When Total now had peace, they now came up with development package and signed up an agreement with them on projects that were mutually agreed upon and witnessed by NNPC. It was then time to build gas turbine in those areas. Agip came and the same condition was given for employment mutually. Shell did the same thing because of the ugly incident in Ogoni area where they had stopped operation since 1992. This way, the engagement strategy changed from that of confrontation to that of collaboration, cooperation and synergy. This continued until 2007 and beyond. Young men from the area became suppliers, contractors, employers and so on. NLNG was in charge of gas pipeline transmitter, Daewoo and other service companies came in. each of them that came also had the GMoU with the communities from the original agreement the oil companies operating oil fields and oil wells had. With this development, focus was removed from government to the oil companies. Odili established the independent power project right at the foot of the oil Wells. That is the Omoku independent power project. That one also brought its own advantage. Obasanjo came in 2006 and saw what Odili did with the gas turbine and felt that it was going to add value to the Nigeria gas master-plan. He said seven more power plants should be built across the Niger Delta. Beside this power plant, you had Ubieye, Omotosho, Odukpani etc. Apart from the one in Akwa Ibom, others were located outside oil producing areas. It meant that if these plants are built, you need gas transmission lines from a gas plant to supply gas to them. This made economic activities to become boomed in the Niger Delta. Obasanjo created NDDC in 2000 to assuage the feelings of the people in the area. And then there was democracy and the states engaged in healthy competition. Suddenly, there was boom. But subsequently, militancy increased in the creeks.

Since you have identified the cause of the killings in some parts of the state, what solution is government proffering to end its further escalation?

You should know that this government came in under very difficult circumstances. The three independent power projects that Odili built: Omoku, Trans-Amadi and Eleme were sold off by the government of Rotimi Amaechi to its cronies. The entire money realized, about US$350million was wired out of Nigeria during the height of the APC presidential primaries. When this government came, the asset base was depleted. There was not a single handover note. Amaechi government ran out of Rivers state. Nobody could show us anything. We had to settle down to fix a lot of things. There was no judiciary in this state for more than one year. Even the cases of criminality, nobody could prosecute anybody. No court to charge anybody. The issue of jurisdiction was primary. Nobody could be committed to prison. Well, this government has been creating a new synergy. The roads are now being opened up. Before now Port Harcourt was a failed capital. The healing process will be long but pragmatic. Remember that the governor went to Omoku and told everybody to lay down their arms to enable government to bring development to those areas. It was the trick of the APC to create in the psyche of Nigerians an impression that there was a crisis in Rivers state. There is a state of emergency in Kaduna state because a Colonel was kidnapped and later found dead. If it was Rivers, they would have called in the Army. Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni is a local government area that has boundaries with four states of the federation. Anambra, Imo, Delta, Bayelsa and three local government areas of Rivers state. Because it is an economic hub, migrants from other parts of the country come in there. The nature of crime today cannot be localized. During the election, the migrants could not have access to do their crimes in the area during the election rerun period.

What is the relationship between your governor and the President, has your governor ever met with the President to brief him of the situation in the state?
I am not in the position to speak for the governor. But I know that Governor Nyesom Wike has a high regards for the President. I also believe that you people as journalists know that the entire south-south is naturally a PDP region. APC tried all it could to win Rivers but it could not. The actors who were here gave a wrong picture to the rest of the country that they were the real leaders. They forgot that their actions and inactions while in government gave them up. In eight months, we have had four different commissioners of Police, three directors of SSS. This is not good for the security architecture. The crisis in Rivers state is a false creation of some people. The internally generated revenue is increasing from N4billion and by the end of the year, it may hit N10 or N11billion. If there was crisis, it would not have been so. Your IGR cannot increase when there is crisis. The crisis is blown out of proportion. There was no a single fight in Ogoniland when they brought in the military. Any security head that is brought here, come in and see something different from the picture that is painted outside the state. Over 500 people were killed in Agatu alone. The United Nations Commissioner in charge of refugees said in his entire carrier, he has never seen a tragedy like that of Agatu. Police said there were some people killed in Imo or other places and the corpses brought and dumped in Etche. Nobody wants to know where those dead bodies were brought from. I know that there is a robust relationship between my governor and the President. But federal government must also be careful of the kind of reports it gets from its surrogates. Let all these cases be investigated. Who killed the youth corps member?