By Ovie Okpare
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has been warned to halt the ongoing bidding process for 57 marginal oil fields in the Niger Delta region if indigenous oil firms in the region would not be given chance to own some of the fields.
Itsekiri Consultative Congress (ICC) gave the warning on Tuesday in Warri, Delta State, while demanding ‘right of first refusal’ for indigenous oil companies owned by the people of the region.
A statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Edema Collins Oritsetimeyin, ICC decried that the people of the region especially the Itsekiri ethnic nationality in Delta State have been deprived of owing oil fields despite their contributions to the nation’s revenue.
It stated that the Itsekiri tribe has been grossly marginalised by industry players since the discovery of ‘black gold’ in the oil-rich region.
The group warned that such continued marginalization of their people would no longer be tolerated if the federal government would not correct the alleged injustice amidst the environmental pollution and poverty in the area.
According to the group, “The Itsekiri Consultative Congress (ICC) wish to caution the Federal Government on the recent 57 Marginal fields offer as announced by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
“We wish to put it on record that the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality has been grossly marginalised in the bid offer since the discovery of Oil in our Homeland over 60 years ago.
“Despite huge environment hazards, poor sanitary conditions, lack of health care facility, and total lack of Federal Presence in any of the Itsekiri Host Communities, the Itsekiri Nation has been the most peaceful in the Niger contributing over 28% of Nigeria’s Oil & Gas.
“We cannot continue to sit down and watch non-indigenes being offered Oil mining licenses in our homeland when we have capable Itsekiri Sons & Daughters whose firms are qualified but will be denied such licenses by the ethno-centric biases of the DPR.”
The statement called on President Buhari to come up with new modalities that will justly and fairly accommodate the people of the region whose land 90 per cent of the country’s mainstay is being derived.
“We therefore wish to use this opportunity to call on the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government to halt the current process of bids for the 57 Marginal fields and come up with new modalities where Competent companies owned by Itsekiri Sons & Daughters can be given “right of first refusal: on fields in our homeland before being thrown open to other indigenous firms.
“This is because our people will take issues of environmental pollution and degradation much more serious.
“The Federal Government is hereby advised to shelve the current process in the interest of continuous peace in the Niger Delta especially Itsekiri homeland”, the statement added.