‘Dialogue critical to ending militancy in Niger Delta’

*Niger Delta militants.

02 February 2017, Lagos –  The Chairman, Energia Limited, an indigenous oil firm, Chief Albert Horsfall, has said dialogue is critical to putting an end to the militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

He said part of the region had seen a lot of devastation over the years on back of oil exploration and production.

Horsfall stated this in his presentation entitled: ‘Ethics and governance practices in the oil and gas industry: The Nigerian experience’ at an event organised by the Institute of Directors in Lagos on Tuesday.

He noted that oil was first struck in the commercial quantities at Oloibiri, Rivers State, in 1956, adding that the oil and gas industry had become the mainstay of the economy since the early 1970s.

He said Shell and British Petroleum, which were at that time the main prospectors, forayed through extensive territories in parts of Rivers State mainly Ogoniland and other places in search of the black gold.

“They encountered no resistance at first because the authority given to the prospective companies was almost absolute. The communities where the exploration took place had practically no power to even protest against the damage done to their environment, land, etc.

“Gradually, over the years, circumstances forced the oil prospecting companies to change their attitudes. They were forced to recognise the reality that they have to deal with the host communities in which they operated.”

According to Horsfall, a new chapter of ethics and governance practices evolved, which prevailed on the exploiting oil companies to adhere to the fresh ethics.

He said the Nigerian government later came up with new policies that hardly gave any consideration to the host communities.

He said, “This unfortunate situation was to be addressed by a new legislation – the Petroleum Industry Bill – which seems to be suffering long and protracted delay in parliament.

“Meanwhile, a law ‘decreed’ by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo had vested all oil and mineral resources in the Federal Government. Interestingly, this law seemed to have affected perhaps only the oil and gas industry. Other minerals in other parts of the country were never, as far as one knows, affected by the law.

“The unfairness and injustice introduced by this and other similar policies appear to be part of the reasons for the continued unrest in parts of the Niger Delta region. Hopefully, the present administration will address some of these anomalies.”

He stressed the need for the government to continue to engage the oil-producing communities to bring about lasting peace in the Niger Delta.

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