Pipeline bombings: Kachikwu trouble shooting mission to N-Delta

18 June 2016, Warri – The Minister of Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, spent the week in Niger Delta region rallying stakeholders, especially militants blowing up oil installations, to stop worrying about the things in the pipeline and the pipeline itself, and allow oil to flow unrestrained in the interest of the nation.

Ibe Kachikwu

Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, during his visit to ancestral home of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, during his visit to ancestral home of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. If there is anything the Minister has achieved in the last few days, it is the fact that the stakeholders, militants inclusive, are beginning to put a measure of confidence in him to come to the dialogue.

But, what is uppermost in their mind is if he had the imprimatur of President Muhammadu Buhari to run the process or he was muscling his way as Minister of State for Petroleum to impress his boss. However, those who doubted his capacity were re-assured that Buhari purposely declared a two-week ceasefire to pave way for dialogue despite the strong opposition to it.

The subtlety of Kachikwu and his team is already paying off. As at last, Tuesday, June 14, a week after he pulled a break in fighting, what many of the militant groups were talking about was no longer the next pipeline to attack, but how to participate in the proposed dialogue.

However, the delicate peace was shattered Wednesday when the military invaded Tebujor community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West local government area, allegedly hunting for militants. Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, which earlier on Monday, June 13, gave conditions to participate in the dialogue, reacted barely 24 hours later by bombing a gas pipeline owned by Seven Energy Company, the operator of Ibom Gas Power Plant, Uquo in Esit-Eket local government area of the state.

However, Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Murtala Mani, refuted the alleged explosion of pipelines at Ikot Osutek, Oruk-Anam, by Avengers, saying the alleged vandalism was an accident caused by a leakage in the gas pipeline.

He maintained that it was a technical problem and that some engineers from Port Harcourt were working to rectify the leakage. New NNPC Boss, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu Dr. Kachikwu, who was in a meeting with stakeholders in Delta state for several hours on Wednesday, however, is working round the clock to ensure that the ceasefire remains.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that some of the stakeholders raised the matter at the Asaba meeting and he promised to address it.

Tactical engagement

His Niger Delta outing, which was not without its drama started at Uyo, Akwa Ibom, where the Ministry of Information organized a Town Hall meeting. Kachikwu stated that the country would not totally end pipeline vandalism without creating an enabling environment to empower militants in the region. He pointed out that with the avalanche of pipeline bombings by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, it would take nothing less than 15 to 20 years to get infrastructure in the oil sector working and full eradication of climatic effects on the environment.

He said: “Modular refineries are going to be the answer to our problems in the future. We talk about the militants and their agitations; the reality is that until we begin to put things in place that would have these so called ‘militants’ find opportunities in the sector, the destruction is going to continue. “

“I have appealed to those who are breaking oil pipelines for now, the Niger Delta Avengers and everybody else, and as you know, we are engaging in negotiations for us to find peace this week and be able to enter a truce that stops all the destruction,” the minister asserted.

Uyo performance with Amaechi

The drama in Uyo ensued when his colleague, Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, took over the podium defending the controversial scrapping of the Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, Delta state, an issue that is at the heart of demands by the militant groups and other stakeholders. He said the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan paid too much to acquire a mere site. In his typical style, he said:

“What to do: let EFCC retrieve the money and release the money and we build the university. If they bring the N13 billion, I will build the university for them.

That’s for land alone.” “I believe the federal government does not have money. When we have money, we can continue. The minister of petroleum has said he would look for the money. Minister, give me the money and we continue.”

However, Kachikwu sharply differed with Amaechi, saying he was in support of the project and this drew a loud applause from the audience.

His words: “I disagree with the minister of transport. Any facility in the South-south, we should work towards developing it, I do not care the circumstance. It is not my business whether land was valued at N19 billion or N10 million. We will deal with the issues, but the university will be developed. If he (Amaechi) does not want it in maritime, I will take it in Petroleum.”

IYC slams Amaechi, hails Kachikwu

Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, umbrella body of Ijaw youths, slammed Amaechi and thumbed up Kachikwu for his sincerity of purpose, saying, “We strongly commend the pro-Niger Delta position taken by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu.”

IYC spokesperson, Eric Omare, who tore Amaechi’s position apart, said: “Mr. Amaechi stated that N19 billion was used to acquire empty land for the establishment of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko and that he is not part of negotiation with militants in the Niger Delta region. Mr. Amaechi’s comment about the acquisition of land for the setting up of the Maritime University is completely wrong and deliberately made to justify his unpopular and anti-Niger Delta opposition to the establishment of the university.”

“The permanent site of the Maritime University is at Okerenkoko town in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West local government area and the land for this site was acquired from the Okerenkoko community at an amount less than N2 billion.”

“After work commenced at the permanent site, the Federal Ministry of Transportation approached Chief Government Ekpemupolo, who owned a Diving School at Kurutie, another community in Gbaramatu Kingodom to acquire his private diving school to be used as temporary site for the Maritime University.

“It is important to note that this Diving School at Kurutue was an existing school with state of the art facilities and structures completely built. In response to the request of the Ministry of Transportation, Chief Ekpemupolo did his own valuation and arrived at about N15 billion, while the Ministry of Transportation did its own valuation and arrived at N13 billion,” the council added.

Calculated harm IYC explained: “The completed Diving School was then sold to the Federal Ministry of Transportation at the valuation done by the ministry. Therefore, it is deliberate mischief for Mr. Amaechi, who is now the Minister of Transportation and has access to all relevant documents to claim that land for the Maritime University, Okerenkoko was acquired at N19 billion to justify his unreasonable and unpopular opposition to the establishment of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko.”

“The land for the university was acquired for less than N2 billion contrary to Mr. Amaechi’s claim. It was the temporary site, which is a completely built up land with structures and world-class facilities that was acquired for about N13 billion, which again is far less than Ameachi’s N19 billion claim,” it said. Omare added: “The IYC is of the strong view that Mr. Amaechi is aware of the facts but only deliberately misrepresenting the facts to justify his anti-Niger Delta position.”

His words: “We strongly condemn Rotimi Amaechi’s anti-Niger Delta position and commend the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu for standing with the people of the Niger Delta region and endorsing the development of the Niger Delta region. Mr. Kachikwu clearly demonstrated to the world that he is a worthy son and representative of the Niger Delta region.”

“It is surprising that Amaechi who opposed former President Jonathan for not developing the Niger Delta region is now leading efforts to undo the Niger Delta region in the present administration.

“We wish to also state that Amaechi’s opposition to negotiation as a way out of the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region shows that Amaechi is against the success of the Buhari administration. The IYC knows as a fact that it is some top federal officials and party chieftains of Niger Delta origin in the Buhari administration like Amaechi, who are against negotiation as a way out of the crisis that are frustrating government efforts to negotiate with Niger Delta stakeholders.

“We call on President Buhari to completely disregard the claims of Mr. Amaechi on the Maritime University, Okerenkoko and on moves to settle the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region. Amaechi’s position is not in the interest of the federal government,” IYC said.

Buhari committed to dialogue In Bayelsa state, Kachukwu, who visited the governor, Seriake Dickson, in the company of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Major General Paul Boroh (retd), said Buhari was committed to dialogue.

He explained that he was in the state to listen to major players and find a lasting solution to the issues surrounding pipeline vandalism, adding: “The President has not focused on the allocation of oil blocs because we think there are more fundamental issues to deal with. We first have to stabilize the sector (and) we are doing a lot of work on that.

“Over the next couple of months, I think more towards the last quarter of this year, then we will focus on looking at bloc opportunities and at that time we will be able to address what we need to do in terms of that resource.

“I hear loud and clear the call within the Niger Delta community that there is a very urgent need in those allocations to ensure that opportunities get either to state governments or to citizens in the areas where oil is being produced.

“I’m sure that is an area that the President is listening to very carefully and we are going to be working with that,” Dr. Kachikwu said.

Governor Dickson applauded Buhari on his stance for dialogue, advising that nobody should politicize the process of peace building and conflict resolution, while Boroh revealed that the dialogue process with militants and other stakeholders have begun producing desirable results. Minister reassures stakeholders in Delta In Delta state, the minister was able to pull strategic stakeholders to a preliminary meeting in Asaba with the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and others.

The major plank of the closed-door discussion was how peace would reign in the state and the leaders signed a communique thereafter.

Saturday Vanguard reliably learned that at the revealing meeting were the spokesperson of Gbaramatu Council of Chiefs, GTC, and Chief Mobilizer of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama and another Gbaramatu leader, Chief Daniel Ekpebide. Also at the meeting were Itsekiri leader and All Progressives Congress, APC chieftain, Chief Ayiri Emami and Okerenkoko leader, Chief Michael Johnny, also an APC stalwart, who with Emami, have not wavered in their battle against Avengers and other militants bombing oil and gas installations in the state.

Kachikwu at the gathering stressed the need for all sides to reach out to the perpetrators to halt the current bombings and allow the oil companies to repair damaged pipelines for oil to flow again.

A source, who attended the meeting, said: “The stakeholders spoke very frankly on the situation in the creeks after which the minister asked for the way out. Some people explained the grievances in the region and abject neglect, but others argued that the issues were well known and should not constitute the basis for blowing up pipelines.”

“It was observed that the internal wrangling among the leaders in the area was deep and the governor was asked to resolve the disagreement, “he added. “Generally, we all agreed on the need for peace and the minister tasked the leaders that attended to go back and talk to their people. We left the meeting very hopeful that there will be peace in the state and the leaders signed a communique to that effect,” he said.

 

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