Worried by the volume of oil theft in the Niger Delta region, Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has advocated the award of contracts for the protection of pipelines to contractors within the host communities as a way of curbing the scourge.
His suggestion came in the wake of revelations that Nigeria has been losing $6 billion (N105 billion) annually to oil theft, a situation which the Federal Government said was undermining the implementation of its transformation programmes.
Speaking in Abuja, Governor Uduaghan said one way of eradicating oil theft was to explore the option of awarding contracts for pipeline surveillance to indigenous contractors within the communities to ensure effective protection and collective responsibility by the communities themselves.
Uduaghan, who spoke on the occasion of the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) fair and exhibition between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation /Chevron Joint Ventures and the eight Regional Development Committees in Abuja, said government was willing to partner with all stakeholders to arrest the scourge.
The Regional Development Committees are known as Egbema-Gbaramatu Central Development Foundation (Delta State), Itsekiri Regional Development Committee (Delta State), Ilaje Regional Development Foundation; Dodo River Regional Development Committee (Bayelsa State), Keffes Regional Development Committee (Bayelsa), Kula Regional Development Foundation (Rivers State), Idama Regional Development Foundation (Rivers State]) and Jisike Regional Development Foundation (Imo State).
These development committees work with their communities to produce and implement development plans designed to improve their livelihood.
He recalled that prior to the signing of the GMoU in 2005, there was ethnic violent conflict in the Western Niger Delta region, which forced Chevron Nigeria Limited to evacuate six swamp facilities and stop operations in the area.
“This decision arose principally because of the lack of transparency and accountability by community leaders and representatives in the management of funds and execution of projects under the previous system of community individual MoUs that Chevron had with its host communities. The suspicions and mistrusts created intensified the conflict within the communities on one hand and against Chevron Nigeria Limited and government on the other hand.
“The entire system was broken and this was not helped by the non-sustainability of the projects executed for the communities as well as the deep seated anger within the communities as Chevron’s direct involvement in determining their needs,” the governor explained.
To smoothen the relationship between the parties, the governor said the Delta State government fashioned a new community engagement model to identify a framework within which Chevron and the communities could work together to create a climate of understanding between the parties, so as to reduce conflict, promote transparency and accountability and encourage communities and their leadership to take ownership of their own development through active participation in planning and implementation of sustainable development programmes.
He expressed delight that the Chevron GMoU has achieved its objectives particularly in the area of accountability and transparency that now pervades the administration of community resources.
In addition, Governor Uduaghan said the GMoU has helped to reduce disharmony and disunity among communities, which would have arisen due to alleged embezzlement of community funds since the communities are engaged in the day to day running of the programme.
Other benefits of the the GMoU to the communities mentioned by Uduaghan in his keynote address are in skills acquisition for youths nominated by their communities, infrastructural development, rural electrification projects, town halls, cottage hospitals, roads projects and micro credit scheme among numerous others.
Earlier in his welcome address at the event, the Chairman and Managing Director, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. Andrew Fawthrop expressed the commitment of his company to build partnership that would improve the lot of the host communities in line with its corporate vision to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnerships and performance.
Fawthrop disclosed that since the GMoU was adopted in 2005, it has continued to elicit global acknowledgment as it has led to significant development in the host communities.
FROM NDIDIAMAKA ORJI, ABUJA