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Niger Delta elders express displeasure over ownership of oil blocks, insists on fare sharing formular

Aggrieved elders of the Niger Delta region, who gave the Federal Government November 1, 2017 deadline to meet their 16-point demands, have revealed how some northern elites shared oil blocks in the region.

The elders, under the auspices of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, alleged that in the last 20 years the Federal authorities have consistently allocated oil blocks to indigenous firms owned by northern businessmen, retired military officers, top civil servants and politicians.

According to them, 30 of the most lucrative oil blocks were awarded to companies owned by northerners with none for indigenes of the oil-bearing region.

Details of last Monday’s extra-ordinary consultative meeting of PANDEF in Abuja, which GbaramatuVoice accessed, showed that the directors and chairmen of some of the oil companies, which the Federal Government awarded the oil blocks had died.

Depending on the arrangement between the Federal Government and the owners of the oil blocks, the lifespan of the licenses for Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) and Oil Mining Lease (OML) is approximately 20 years.

In deploring the exclusion of the Niger Delta from oil exploration activities, the National Leader/Convener of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, said: “In the area of indigenous oil and gas concessions and their directors/shareholders, I am shocked to discover that virtually all the oil blocks or marginal oil fields in the country are owned by northerners and their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, who are mostly South Westerners and South Easterners.”

Clark identified the indigenous oil firms owned by northerners to include Optimum Petroleum, the operators of OPL 310, which was awarded in 1992. The directors, according to him are R.D. Adelu, Yusuf N’jie and O.A. Aremu with Ibrahim Bunu as the chairman of the company.

Express Petroleum, which owns OPLs 108 and 227 and licensed in 1995, Clark stated, has as directors, Ahmadu Rufai, Tajudeen Dantata, Dalhatu Gwarzo, Lawan Omar with Aminu Alhassan Dantata as the chairman.

For Amni International Petroleum, the operators of OPLs 112 and 117, which licenses were awarded in 1998 and 1999, the Niger Delta elder statesman listed the directors as E.C. Edozien, Tunde Afolabi with Sanni Bello as chairman.

According to Clark, the trend is the same in Oriental Energy Resources Ltd, owners of OPL 115, which was licensed in 1999. The directors are Usman Danburan, Jibril Mohammed Indimi with Mohammed Indimi as chairman.

He added that Cavendish Petroleum Nig. Ltd, which owns OPL 110 with license awarded in 1996, has Gambo Gubio as director and the late multi-billionaire, Mai Ahmed Deribe as chairman.

According to the elder, South Atlantic (SAPETRO), operators of OPL 264 later 130, which license was awarded in 1998 has Miguel Guerrero, Joy Ikiebe, Guerrrero as directors and former Defense Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma as chairman.

The statement, which the elder made available to journalists, showed that North East Petroleum, owners of OPLs 215, 840 and 902, with licenses awarded in 1991 has Kommer Complex Limited, Nwokema Ngozi Mbu, Abubakar Jubril and Ashiru B. Aliu, A. Ayankoya as directors and Saleh Jambo as chairman.

Jambo, a former national chairman of the defunct United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP) and oil tycoon died in 2013 in Abuja at the age of 76.

PNDEF said that Oriental Energy Ltd, owners of OML 67, which license was awarded in 2006 and 2007 has among its directors Owok Ebok, Alhaji Indimi and Usman Danburan.

Apart from ownership of OPL licenses, they also cried foul over appointment of senior personnel of oil companies, arguing that Niger Delta indigenes are marginalised, or skillfully schemed out.

The elder therefore called for a deliberate review of the allocation of oil wells and employment of qualified indigenes of host communities into top and middle level positions of oil companies.

Similarly, PANDEF condemned the composition of the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), declaring that it has completely alienated people of the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta.

He said, “A ready case in point is where only one member from the South-South, in the person of Dr. Thomas M. A. John, a former Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, from Cross River State, was appointed on the nine-member NNPC Board constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016. Six directors of the nine, including the sitting Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, are from the northern parts of the country, which do not produce oil.

“Worse still, taxes and other essential levies from these oil companies are paid to the Lagos State government, thereby depriving the oil-producing states in the Niger Delta, which bear the brunt of degradation, arising from the oil exploratory activities, of these revenues. And of course, without the oil companies, there would have been no Lekki, in Lagos,” he said.

Clark continued, “It is ridiculous that the people of oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta are not millionaires, not to talk of billionaires, in the oil industry. Revenue from those communities is being used to develop non-oil producing communities.”

“In the management of the oil Industry, which is operated in our backyard, nearly all the top and middle level positions in the NNPC and its subsidiaries are manned mostly by northerners rather than those from the areas.

“We have become strangers in our own home, in an industry which is built behind our backyard. The northern opposition to restructuring is based mainly on resource control.”

“The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) is an agency established by the government to offer scholarships for the training of Nigerians for the oil and gas industry. The beneficiaries of this scheme are mainly persons from the northern zones of the country that do not produce oil, with indigenes from the oil-producing communities hardly considered.

“I challenge PTDF to publish the scholarships awarded since 1999 on zone-by-zone and state-by-state basis,” Clark stressed.

The elder statesman expressed worry over the ownership of oil fields in the country and posited that the people of the Niger Delta are unjustifiably schemed out in the process.

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