– Demand his resignation
Port Harcourt — Stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have criticized the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, calling for his resignation over his late visit to communities impacted by the ongoing oil spills from Aiteo facility in Opu-Nembe, Bayelsa State, almost a month since the incident began.
Recall that the Minister, despite being an indigene of Nembe Kingdom, only visited impacted communities in Nembe yesterday, after being ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, to do so, in order to ascertained the level of impact of the spills on the environment and on the people of the area.
The Minister while addressing the people of Nembe Bassambiri yesterday had said that he was “sent by the President to come and have on the spot assessment of the situation,” assuring that the President will ensure that the situation is immediately remediated.
Although, the oil firm said it was yet to ascertain the volume of crude discharged into the environment, at least 4,000 barrels of Bonny light crude blend in four barges of 1,000 barrels have been recovered from the spill incident site.
However, stakeholders in the region have said that it was a shame on the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, that while his community has literally been on fire, it took the directive of President Buhari for him to visit his people, his state and region.
Executive Director of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, called on the Minister to resign, for not responding after 24 hours of the oil spill but waited for over three weeks before going to see the impact of the spill on the people, despite being from the area.
Fyneface said he was not surprised of the Minister’s attitude, saying that the Minister doesn’t care about the host communities and had in the past told oil bearing communities, that 2.5% was best for them in the Petroleum Industry Bill, before it was passed with 3% in the Petroleum Industry Act.
He also called on the management Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Ltd to own up the spill, stop it, pay adequate compensation to the people, clean up and restore their livelihoods
“YEAC is surprised to hear from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Silver that his visit to Nembe communities where oil spill from Aiteo facility devastated since November 1 was because President Muhamadu Buhari sent him.
“While nobody would consider it as favouring the Nembe communities if he had visited earlier. He should resign for not responding few hours of the oil spill but waited for over three weeks before going to see the impact of the oil spill on the people.
“The late visit of the Minister is a typical example of insensitivity on his part, that of the government and of course the Petroleum Minister, President Muhammadu Buhari to the plight of the people of Nembe and by extension the Niger Delta region which makes it difficult for them to approve 10% in the PIA but a meagre 3% because they do not live in the local oil bearing communities to know the pains and plight of the people.”
Similarly, the Leader of Egbeama Voice of Freedom, Pastor Evaristus Nicholas, also called on the Minister to resign for incompetence.
“It is a shame to the Minister that while his is house is on fire, it took the President to order him to visit his community. He should resign, he doesn’t need to wait for a directive. Now after his visit yesterday, what next?
“The company is unable to stop the spill up till now and they are looking for international firm to help. It goes to show that the incompetence of the operator and that of the government who gave them license too, because ability to handle and manage spill incidents should be a requirement before operating license is issued.”
For his part, the Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, who described the Minister’s visitas medicine after death, said the Minister’s visit was meaningless as it will have little or no effect.
Bassey also said the oil spill is an indictment on the government for awarding operatorship license to incompetent operators, adding that the future is outrageously bleak for Niger Delta youths, due to ecological racism and impunity from government and corporate entities.
“The Minister of State didn’t have to wait to be prompted by the President. There were repeated calls by impacted communities and stakeholders for him to visit from the communities. Waiting to be literally ordered to go and see the fire burning in his backyard is a big shame.
“His visit will have no positive effect. It will be medicine after death. It will neither soothe frayed nerves, nor provide concrete assurances that action will be taken to stop the ongoing Ecocide.
“The oil spill is a big indictment on government for lack of diligence in allowing incompetent indigenous companies take over dilapidated assets of notorious polluters. The spill has now lasted one full month because community people reported that it started on 1st November and not on the 5th.
“Some years ago Shell’s oil spill from a similarly capped oil well at Ikot Ada Udo lasted for 3 months before it was stopped. An ongoing well blow out at Ororo-1 well off the coast of Ondo State has been on since May 2020. Has the Minister of State of the President said or done anything about that?
“The Niger Delta is in a very precarious situation right now. Young people who manage to survive today may end up with an outrageously bleak future due to ecological racism, corporate impunity and government’s fixation on petrodollars— all at the expense of the poor people of the region.”
On his part, a labour leader and former Chairman of PENGASSAN, Port Harcourt Zone, Comrade Azubuike Azubuike, said the Minister’s action explains the fact President Buhari’s appointees are people with no initiative.
“It goes to tell us that GMB controls what happens to the government. He appointed those who have no initiative other than what he wanted them to do.
“Sylva like other Ministers especially from the Southern part of Nigeria, is just a willing tool ready for only instructions from the man GMB even if their house is on fire.
“No initiative, no confidence and are tied to one corruption allegation or the other, for the President to be controlling them to his whims and caprices.”
It should be noted that when a similar long-lasting oil spill incident occured within Funiwa oilfield in the early 1980s, then President, Shehu Shagari and Governor of old Rivers State, Melford Okilo, personally visited the spill site and the impacted communities.