Health, Livelihood of Oil Producing Communities not Properly Considered Since 1958 When Exploration Began – Hon. Abiante
The member of the House of Representatives, representing Adoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Dagomie Abiante said there was no proper attention given to the walfare and livelihood of the oil host communities even before the beginning of the exploration of oil in Nigeria in 1958.
In an interview with THE EAGLE EYES POST, Hon. Abiante said the issue of gas flaring which just came up by way of public hearing in the House of Representatives last Monday would have been addressed before now.
The Public Hearing is targeting 2025 to attain zero gas flare.
In his words: “We have been exploring and exploiting this oil resource since 1958, that is over 62 years today. The question you should have asked yourself is that in the policy design from inception were the people who live around the environment recognized? Was any consideration given to their means of livelihood and their health? If you ask me the answer is No. No consideration was given to all of these. But if they were considered right from the very beginning, policies would have been drafted and steps towards achieving zero gas flare would have been put in place even before the exploration.
“Which of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) is situated within the environment they are exploiting the oil? We have brought this issue up several times that if really you want to interface with the people, bring your offices to the areas where you are carrying out your activities. But the answer is No. That is the reason why there has always been a shift of the goal post in the middle of the game. Is that justifiable? Now they have come again to say we want to end this in 2025. For me it’s more of talk shop than working the talk. I pray we should be able to get it right this time. There have been international involvement. The agreements were reached in several other countries and they are making frantic efforts at getting gas flare out and meeting up with the time line that they have set.”
Responding to the issue of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the suggestion by some quarters that it should be scrapped, Hon. Abiante said that the Issues of NDDC are enshrined in the foundational documents of this country.
“There is an NDDC and there is a political NDDC. How can somebody from a political NDDC be saying they should scrap the NDDC? Do you give attention to such a person? I usually refer people to the 1960 and 1963 Constition because these are the foundational documents. Every other thing you have seen were people taking advantage of all of that, because at no point did we sit down to discuss the issue of 1999 constitution.
“There are alot of problems as a result of the manipulation of the few who ceased power. This is why you see what you are seeing today. Several factors that made us Nigeria are not in place. The reasonable thing to do is how is proper management of NDDC. NDDC is for the development of Niger Delta? or it is for the development of the oil producing environment? The NDDC as enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 constitution, is not about oil, it is about the development of Niger Delta environments. If you have politicized the oil production, Who is the Managing Director of NDDC? We have the Niger Delta environments and we also have oil producing environments. If you take a man that does not know what it means to be an oil bearing community, make him head of people who suffer the pains of oil bearing community. Will he be so responsible? The very issue that brought to bare is that the Act establishing NDDC were not put into consideration. Who are the Board members? We have board members across the length and breadth of this country. Some don’t even know the colour of crude oil and you want them to take decision for those who bear the brunt of this oil. Go to the gate of NDDC and see those who pass through it every day. Are they from Niger Delta environments? Whoever is calling for the scrapping of NDDC should be able to tell us where he is coming from. The question we should be asking is how is it managed. If you have the courage to ask how 3 or 18 percent is spent. Also have the courage to ask who has 87 percent to account for it”, he stated.
On the South South Development Commission which is being sponsored by Hon. Abiante despite NDDC, he said:
“We are talking about NDDC as it is structured today. If there are other issues like zonal commission, of course, they qualify for zonal commission. There have been a passage of the North East Development Commission and other bills before the House of Representatives such as South South Development Commission bill which was sponsored by my humble self.
“This is because there is a distinction between the Niger Delta Development Commission as it is today and the South South Development Commission. In the NDDC you have South East, South West and South South. So you can not take away one zone and say that because you have one you can’t have the other”.
On the issue of corruption he said: “When you talk about corruption… if you have seen the report of Transparency International on the perception of corruption, go and judge it for yourself.