Time to review oil industry agreements -By Eperetei Fiyebo

Dear President Buhari, more than a year after the All Progressives Congress took over power, expectations remain high, but so much faith is already lost in your Change mantra that brought the party to power. Nigerians are, however, elated by the fact that the price of oil is rallying, and your change flight has taxied and is ready to take off with a deficit of trillion litres of fuel. So much has been said about the state of the economy and indeed millions of Nigerians are not comfortable with the state of affairs that has been further compounded by the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). Many already blame you while others blame the misappropriation and embezzlement of funds by leaders of the Niger Delta region over the years.

Fiyebo, addressing the press

It is baffling that a blind eye has been turned to the major players in the plot to impoverish and disintegrate Nigeria. The players in reference are the International Oil companies (IOCs) .

Many Nigerian agree that the crisis in the Niger Delta is a product of economic and resource control and not necessarily of power. Their agenda was to exploit and plunder our resources as much as we will permit. The Federal Government thought it had nipped this in the bud when it enacted “The Nigeria Oil & Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010. It provides in unequivocal terms in section 3 thus: “Nigerian independent operators shall be given first consideration in the award of oil blocks, field licences, oil lifting licences and in all projects for which contract is to be awarded in the Nigeria oil and gas industry subject to the fulfillment of such conditions as may be specified by the Minister.

“ There shall be exclusive consideration to Nigerian indigenous service companies which demonstrate ownership of equipment, Nigeria personnel and capacity to execute such work, to bid on lands and swamp operating areas of the Nigerian oil and gas industry for contracts and services contained in the schedule to the Act.”

Despite the existence of this legislation, Niger Deltans, and indeed, many other Nigerians are not empowered to benefit from the largesse of the industry. The ultimate benefactors are the IOCs which often play the victim in the stand-off between the Federal Government and Niger Delta agitators. The people of the Niger Delta and the Buhari administration are on the same side; like two horses pulling the same cart ridden and whipped by the IOCs.

The truth is that we are in a cusp of revolution. A new way of working things out must be adopted and it has to start with an in-depth investigation of the activities of the IOCs. Their activities should be scrutinised to reveal contribution to local content development and other unwholesome practices that are sabotaging your efforts to liberate Nigeria from the clutches of under-development. These companies come from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world as vendors and suppliers of specialized equipment and machinery only to morph into servicing companies without any investment in the country and go on to repatriate the monies realized here. The indigenous companies are the ones Nigerians have unhindered access to because they don’t fortify their office premises. Local companies are the ones striving hard to effect the desired change because for them, failure is not an option.

You will be alarmed by what Nigeria has lost to these firms if you happen to stumble on a copy of their annual reports. They have been in active operation and maintenance in Nigeria for decades. When will the indigenous players begin to fully develop, manage and operate the assets of their motherland? Nigerians are also asking, “what are these foreign servicing firms doing in Nigeria?” The answer is in the papers, securing deals worth millions of dollars that don’t impact the immediate environment they operate in. Smart countries that have been victims of these foreign players are taking bold steps to remedy the anomaly, by investigating, reviewing and terminating such contracts.

This is a pointer to the fact that Nigeria needs to review her relationship with these foreign players in the best interest of the indigenous players and national development.

Indigenous stakeholders are also concerned by the active unrestricted or regulated presence of companies that are in the core business of design, engineering, construction, installation and delivery of Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO), oil infrastructure and allied facilities that now actively partake in the rites and privileges reserved for sons of the soil? It is pertinent for the President to have a clear view of all perspectives to the lingering issues in the industry which further buttress the need for the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to be revisited. The assets that were recently destroyed will cost millions of dollars. Who profits? IOCs! Who is the ultimate beneficiary of the security and maintenance contracts? The IOCs! The reason is that the government bears the brunt of these costs which in turn affects the amount remitted to the Federal coffers with no bearing on their accounts. We concede that there are indeed IOCs that don’t belong to this pack; companies like SPDC, and EXXON/MOBIL which give tremendous support to indigenous companies and are themselves victims of the other lot of their kind.

Indications are that those companies are not just involved in crude oil theft; they provide the skill set and resources to execute it and in most cases are both the buyers and sellers. Many of these companies operate without proper incorporation or local partnership and even when they do, the relationship is a very sorry one that can be likened to that of a master and a slave where there is no regard or courtesy, where terms of contracts are breached at will. Tax evasion and the abuse of expatriate quota are the order of the day.

We wish that from now this administration will listen keenly to the choking voices of the Niger Delta instead of looking at them as a bunch of greedy and destructive fellows. It is the desire of the indigenous stakeholders that the activities of these foreign firms be investigated because it plays a part in providing lasting peace to the Nigerian oil and gas industry nation at large.

•Fiyebo, President, Ijaw Youth Development Association (IYDA), writes from Lagos

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