*Reject Awarding 57 Marginal Oil Fields To Strangers
*Seek Commencement Of Works At Ogidigben Gas Project
*Threaten To Shutdown Oil And Gas Facilities in Urhoboland
By Ovie Okpare
Urhobo youths have again presented ten fresh demands to President Muhammadu Buhari over what they described as “intolerable” and continued marginalization of the Urhobo ethnic nationality and other oil and gas producing ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region.
They particularly warned that there is a looming crisis in the region, saying that what is building is bigger than previous crises and only an urgent step by President Buhari will nip the situation in the bud.
The youths under the aegis of Urhobo Youth Leaders Association (UYLA) specifically warned the Federal Government to stop with immediate effect the sale or award of the vacant 57 marginal oil fields to non-Niger Deltans.
It said priority must be given to oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta to own over 60 percent of the resources that God has situated in their land, adding that anything short of that will shutting down of oil and gas facilities in the region especially in Urhoboland.
Acting National President of UYLA, Olorogun Vincent Ogheneruemu Oyibode, read out the demands at a world press briefing held in Warri on Saturday in a communique also signed by the group’s National Secretary, Chief Tony Ofoni and Publicity Secretary,
Chief Samuel Oghotomo.
Oyibode said Urhobo youths will join forces with her nieghbouring Ijaw, Itsekiri and other tribes in the region that have suffered untold marginalization in the hands of the Federal Government to bring down oil installations in the oil-rich region.
*The Ten Demands
Among the demands, he said, was the suspension of “plan to divert our gas to Ajaokuta, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and Niger Republic until all Host Communities are guaranteed regular electricity supply by stepping down electricity from gas-turbine power stations in Delta State at Ekakpamre, Sapele and Amai.
“Disband the illegal Interim Management Committee of the NDDC and inaugurate the new Board screened and confirmed by the National Assembly several months ago.
“Satisfy the ignored demands submitted by the Federation of Host Communities to Utorogu Gas Plant for local content jobs and contracts for Phases 2 and 3 or else face a shutdown of the Plant.
“Pay compensation of N500 Billion to families of victims of the Idjerhe burst pipeline fire of 1998 that roasted about 1000 persons to death in Ethiope West LGA.
“Release the Sapele Port taken over by the Nigerian Navy so that it can be restored for commercial shipping to boost the economy of Delta State.”
The group called on the federal government to give directive for the commencement and completion of the multi-billion dollars Ogidigben Gas Projects and the Deep Sea Port in Gbaramatu, Warri South -West LGA of Delta State.
“Complete the Ogidigben Gas Project and Okerenkoko Deep Sea Port, the East-West Highway, the Omadino-Escravos Road and the Koko-Ogheye Road by 2021. It should be noted that much of the gas stock for the Ogidigben project will be sourced from Urhobo land. There should be memoranda of understanding with Urhobo Oil and Gas Host Communities to work out equitable formulas for employment of Urhobo local personnel, management staff, and execution of major contracts and supplies.
“Stop action on the proposed law for Federal monopoly ownership of Niger Delta rivers and waterways which are our natural heritage and identity.
“Guarantee adequate funding for the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, and the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko to enable them play their strategic roles in the global knowledge economy.
“Start the implementation of the Report of the 2014 National Conference, including 100% resource control, State/LGA police”, the demands further read.
Speaking further, Oyibode, a commissioner on the board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), noted that the looming will be the Federal Government fighting all tribes of the region who had given the Preaident Buhari government window of time to meet the needs of the region.
According to him, “We of the Urhobo Youth Leaders Association (UYLA) salute the valiant people of Ijaw and Itsekiri Oil and Gas Host Communities for their struggle against wicked plans of the Federal Government to deny them benefits from their God-given oil, gas, and water resources.
“The Host Communities have rejected the plan to divert Delta State gas to develop other parts of Nigeria while neglecting our areas. Also the Host Communities have demanded the completion of the $20 Billion Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP) (Ogidigben) and Deep Sea Port (Okerenkoko), both started by President Jonathan in 2015 but abandoned by President Buhari.
“The Urhobo Oil and Gas Host Communities unequivocally support these demands for resource control, equity, and justice.
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“This joint action is historic because it coincides with the 93rd Anniversary of the 1927 Anti-Taxation Revolt in Warri Province. In July that year the Urhobo, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Isoko and Ukwuani nations of the Province resolved to reject the British imposition of head tax on male adults.
“To back their resolve, they placed trade embargo on palm produce and declared the Warri Province an Independent Nation from the British Empire. Colonial courts and Warrant Chiefs were sacked and replaced with democratic community-based ones. The revolution was led by Chief Oshue Ogbiyerin of Orhuwhorun now in Udu LGA. That spirit of freedom from oppression has resurrected with the recent Ijaw-Itsekiri joint action.
“Urhobo land is rich in oil and gas resources, with over 400 wells in 14 fields. The first oil well in the western Niger Delta was drilled at the Urhobo Community of Afiesere in 1959. The Ughelli Quality Control Centre, Eruemukohwarien opened by Shell in 1967 is the largest crude oil depot in our region. The Kokori-Orogun Oil Field at Erhoike produces the highest grade oil in the world.
“Urhobo hosts the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company and Nigerian Gas Company, both in Ekpan-Effurun. Urhoboland has vast reserves of natural gas, accounting for about 25% of national total. The gigantic Utorogu Gas Plant in Ughievwen and Udu Kingdoms is the biggest in Africa. It processes gas for the Utorogu-Escravos-Lagos Pipeline that serves Ondo, Ogun and Lagos States as well as West African countries of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. Gas from the Utorogu Plant will also supply the $2.8 billion Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano-Niger Republic Pipeline with final destination market in Europe.
“The situation of the Utorogu Gas Plant exposes the unjust policies of the Federal Government. For 30 years, its management and contractors have deliberately breached local content regulations of employment and services for the host communities of Udu and Ughievwen Kingdoms.”
They further stated that, “For 50 years, oil wealth from Urhoboland has transformed Lagos and environs, built Abuja, many state capitals, and Federal institutions, airports, highways, railways and amenities all over Nigeria.
“In spite of the enormous contribution of the Urhobo Nation to Nigeria’s development, our people wallow in abject poverty; they are shackled and impoverished by unemployment, diseases and insecurity. Urhobo cities and towns are neglected, dirty, clustered with slums and polluted by rickety commercial tricycles and motor cycles.
“For the above instances of federal neglect and injustice, Urhobo Oil and Gas Host Communities will join the Ijaw and Itsekiri in the current struggle. Therefore, if the Federal Government fails to address the issues and demands within the ultimatum given, Urhobo Oil and Gas Host Communities will also shut down oil and gas facilities in their areas.”