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Niger Delta indigenes need post security for refineries

Niger Delta indigenes need post security for refineries

Ijaw Youth Council President, Pereotubo Roland Oweilaemi, is a lawyer. In this interview with AKINOLA AJIBADE,
he speaks on conditions for peace in the Niger Delta region, restructuring and the need for a bailout for the region’s indigenes interested in owning modular refineries and marginal fields, among others.

Two years into President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, what is your take on peace in the Niger Delta?

Peace in the Niger Delta is inevitable and must be achieved irrespective of who is at the helm of affairs. It is important and we are working tirelessly to ensure that there is peace in the Niger Delta and Ijaw territories, and the government at the centre is trying to settle down to attend to some of our demands. It is expected that we give them some time to dress the table and attend to the problems of the Niger Delta people

Do you buy into the modular refineries programme, especially in view of the criticism that they are not profitable?

With due respect, I don’t want to agree that modular refineries if properly handled are not viable. I don’t agree with the proponents of that ideology. Modular refinery is a good gesture by the Federal Government. It is just to move away from oil theft, to move away from illegal oil bunkering. but the worry is that the people, who are supposed to be empowered to do this are not the ones in charge. I mean the Niger Delta people,  the Ijaw people, who are involved in one form or the other, but are not doing the oil business properly. This is the essence of modular refineries. We find out that the government is not giving the sons and daughters of the Niger Delta the opportunity to own and operate modular refineries because the conditions to get them are very stringent.The financial involvement is very huge and we do not have that kind of money. So, we are calling on the Federal Government to relax these conditions to enable us also own and operate modular refineries, so that the peace we expect will continue to be part of the Niger Delta region.

Are you aware that DPR has reduced the initial deposit from $1million to $150,000?

Yes, I am aware and that’s still too much? It’s too much, we want further reduction. We have the oil, but we have not been managing this oil. We don’t have a stake in it so it should be relaxed. It should be brought down that we might also participate as equal owners in the project.

Do you have colleagues in the Niger Delta, who have applied to  the DPR , because it said it was waiting for people to submit applications?

How can you apply for something that you knew from the onset that you cannot start? You know the requirements, you have been given the requirements and from the word go, you know that you can’t do it. There is no miracle, conditions are stringent. We can’t apply and get it concluded logically, that is why we are saying that they should relax the conditions for us to be co-owners. You can’t say that the process is open and they expect people from Niger Delta, people from Ijaw extraction, to apply. How will they apply for something that they know that they won’t get at the end of the day? You already know the condition. The involvement, the logistics to put together to get a modular refinery is huge, that is why we are saying they should bring it down please.

Do you expect a bailout or something similar for Niger Delta indigenes?

That is what we expect. As a matter of fact, we are calling on the government to give us a time frame of about five to 10years, to get the modular refineries set up for a group of youths in the Niger Delta and say that from a particular time of the year, pay a certain amount to the Federal Government and at the end of the payment, you will become the owner of the refinery. That is palliative.

So, what are you doing to reach out to those in authority concerning this particular issue?

Yes, we were talking to them. I was with my elder brother, the Special Adviser on Amnesty, and we had fruitful discussions on how we will ensure that there is peace in the Niger Delta region. Of course, you will agree with me that where there is no peace, you can’t  attract  development, so, it is our responsibility to ensure, as youth leaders, that there is peace in the Niger Delta. That is the only panacea for development in the Niger Delta and we expect the government at different strata to do some basic things for us to get this peace we are looking for.

Ogoni cleanup, do you see the project ongoing?

It is unfortunate that we don’t seem to see what should be happening  now on site. The process is slow and we are not pleased about it. Ogoni is not the only place, it is peculiar, but it is not the only place that requires cleanup in the Niger Delta. There are so many places that are bastardised, our farmlands are gone, our aquatic life is gone, everything is gone. Our mothers cannot farm, they cannot fish. So, we need cleanup in almost every place in the Niger Delta, but you must start it from somewhere and that is why the government has decided to start from Ogoni. However, the speed we expected is not the speed we see on ground. I am calling on the government to ensure that Ogoni cleanup exercise is given priority attention.

Federal Government plans marginal  fields bid round before the end of this year. How prepared are the Niger Delta youths to take advantage of this opportunity?

We are very ready and capable to own and operate marginal fields, but the problem is that some people say we are not capable. We have gone through a lot of skills acquisition. We are being trained. We have Ijaw sons and daughters, people from the Niger Delta that can own marginal fields and operate it successfully.

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