Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo again opposed the agitation for resource control for the people of the Niger Delta region Saturday, insisting that all resources within the Nigerian space belong to all parts of the country.
Obasanjo argued that if God wanted each state and each region to control what is found in their land, he wouldn’t have brought the entity called Nigeria together.
The former President, who was in Obunagha, Gbarain community in Yenagoa, to inaugurate a modular refinery owned by Azikel Group of Companies, promoted by the group’s president, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, maintained that the federal government should be allowed to “manage” the oil resource in the region for the good of all.
He explained that though it was not wrong for the Niger Delta people to derive more benefits from the crude oil in the area, it was only right to ensure that all Nigerians, irrespective of the part of the country they hail from, also enjoy the God-given natural resource.
The ex-Nigerian leader who was reacting to a speech by the Secretary General of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Mr. Alfred Kemepado, who had earlier maintained that the demand for resource control will be achieved by all means possible, also stated that he wasn’t sure what the marginal fields he awarded to the states in the region, including Bayelsa, had been used for.
“I won’t argue with him, but when I was in government, I said I won’t join you people to control resource, just let me manage it. I talk of resource management and that is good enough for me. Because if we manage our resources well, not controlling, wherever I am let me manage it for the good of all, not control and that is my belief.
“God, who created Nigeria, decided to bring us together because without God we wouldn’t have been born. If we are one country, all the resources in Nigeria, people in the country should benefit; but first of all people in the locality should benefit, after that all Nigerians.
“The governor was right. I personally drove the policy on marginal fields to benefit the people of this area, and they were the major beneficiaries of those marginal fields.
“But I don’t know what they did with it. And Governor just as I do not know what happened to your two oil blocs, (given to Bayelsa) after it was given to your state; who do we blame for that?”, he queried.
He decried the inability of the 18 companies he gave licences to begin operation even after he exited power, arguing that what Eruani had done should be emulated by all high net worth individuals in the region.
“The MRS lady said this is not the first time we are giving people licences. I understand President Buhari and his government gave 22 licences and only Azikel is the only one out of the 22 that is being actualised. Before then, we gave 18, not one was actualised. You can see the reason why on an occasion like this, we should pay special tribute to you, Dr. Eruani”, Obasanjo noted.
He stated that if the people of the Niger Delta continue to look back at 1956 and all the issues that happened since then, they would not move forward.
Obasanjo thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for granting more licences for the building of refineries, stressing that others should follow in the footsteps of the investors who have broken the jinx.
“I join all of you in thanking President Buhari and his government for giving four more licences than we gave. Hopefully others will follow your footsteps. They gave all sorts of reasons why they couldn’t start, including security and the fixed price of oil.
“All the reasons they gave are still there today. But you are a genuine entrepreneur, the rest were not genuine, they were only there to take”, the former president added.
Obasanjo urged Eruani to continue to bring more investments into the Niger Delta and counselled the traditional rulers to ensure that the right environment was created for businesses to flourish.
On his part, Governor Seriake Dickson applauded President Buhari but urged him to go beyond granting of licences to ownership of oil blocs for the people of the area.
“The handshakes should go beyond granting licenses for refineries. We are talking of ownership of oil blocs.
“We are talking of being involved in all the entire gamut of activities down the line. We shouldn’t be tired of making that case because that is a legitimate case. Recently there were discussions about oil companies relocating to the areas of operation and a number of us found it very refreshing but we are yet to see it happen.
“The reason I am particularly delighted is because I hear that licenses have been given for refineries in areas several thousands of miles and thousands of kilometres away from the Niger Delta where the crude is taken.
“I don’t know the business case that justifies the establishment of expensive wells and pipelines, rivers and creeks down to several areas. I am told that there are refineries being conceived and being built in Niger Republic for example, while you have not built refineries where the fixed stock is really available.
“I find it baffling. Why even within Nigeria, you will leave the Niger Delta where the fixed stock is and you decide to sit down and award licences and spend billions of Naira and dollars building pipelines and you are at the same time talking of insecurity of insecurity.
“The little I know is that in oil producing areas around the world, the activities connected with that industry are located in those areas where those resources are found. But in Nigeria we always choose to do things differently. We must examine our own conduct and even what we did.
“We are waiting for the oil blocs. All we are saying is that we are making a case for inclusion. Obasanjo’s presence here today lends credence to this initiative and goes a long way in showing to people that this project is feasible and doable”, Dickson said.
In his welcome address, the Group President, Azikel Group of Companies, thanked President Buhari for the licence and expressed hope that the refinery project would mitigate the frequent scarcity of petroleum products and curb youth restiveness in Bayelsa and in the region.
Eruani, who noted that some youths who would work at the facility were currently undergoing fabrication engineering training in the United States, said construction and production phases of the refinery project would provide about 1,000 jobs.
“Our journey is one with lots of interests and challenges. But our committed drive to industrialise the Niger Delta is unwavering. For the first time we will refine crude oil at home. This is the beginning of reversing the incessant scarcity of petroleum products.
“But more importantly, this will bring several businesses in the state and in the Niger Delta. We will put youths to work and we will be engaging communities. This will largely curb youth restiveness”, Eruani said.