By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege has appealed to members of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) to halt its planned attacks on oil facilities in the region.
According to him, going ahead with their threat would create economic setback for the country and additional environmental degradation in the area.
Senator Omo-Agege’s appeal came on the heels of recent threats by a coalition of nine militant groups in the Niger-Delta region expressing readiness to resume hostilities by attacking oil and gas facilities if Federal Government did not meet the demands of #EndSARS protesters across the country.
But speaking when he hosted a delegation of Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON) in Abuja, led by elder statesman, Chief (Dr ) Wellington Okrika, the Delta Central lawmaker urged the agitators to sheathe their sword and allow peace to reign.
He assured that their demands would be tabled before The Presidency.
The senator stressed that with the nation still battling with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the aftermath of #EndSARS Protests which was hijacked by hoodlums, it cannot afford another militancy problem at the moment.
“Whatever it is, we must maintain peace in the Niger Delta. I say this in view of the new agitations by the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers. We are just coming out of the #EndSARS protest which, of course, we all witnessed how a peaceful protest was hijacked by those with sinister agenda. We are all witnesses to what happened afterwards even when we must acknowledge that in a democracy, protest is a right provided those that do it do so peacefully without abridging the rights of others,” Omo-Agege said.
Speaking further, he urged HOSCON members to “go back to our people in the Creeks and tell them we are here for them. We are here to champion their request. We don’t want the peace of the Niger Delta to be disturbed or disrupted. We are here to protect the interest of our people. Yes, I may be the Deputy President of the Senate today but, I am first of all, a Senator representing my people. I am here and I am your own. I am your eye. We shall not disappoint you.
“Take this commendation to our brothers in the Creeks that they have done well in keeping the peace and we will table their request before the authorities as they have channelled that request through me. We shall ensure the right things are done”.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly, Omo-Agege argued that the annual contribution of 2.5 per cent actual operating expenditure by oil companies to the Host Community Development Trust Fund would be increased to, at least, 5 per cent.
He also reiterated his call at the Second Reading of the bill on the floor of the Senate where he made a case for gas flaring penalties to be paid to the host communities and not the Federation Account.
He pointed out that the funds would be used to ameliorate the living conditions in Niger Delta communities, as they remain the ones that bear the burden of environmental degradation from the oil industry.
“That I come from the oil bearing communities is one of the reasons why I am DSP today given our contribution to the economy of the country. It is only natural that I champion anything that would promote the interest of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The PIB is a very crucial bill. If properly handled it would bring a lot of Foreign Direct Investments into the oil economy. This is the best time to take advantage of the oil we have and the best way to do so it to encourage FDIs and this can only be achieved when the Niger Delta is peaceful. That is why I am suing for peace.
“Let the Niger Delta Region begin to look like the region that produces the wealth of the country. The Host Community component of the PIB law is of utmost importance to us in the National Assembly and we believe it should be a win-win for all stakeholders. And so, we are determined to ensure that we have an improvement on what we have before. I am also confident that we have made good impression with our colleagues and we would get something favourable for the oil bearing communities.
Earlier, Chief Okrika, called on the Deputy President of the Senate to intervene in the issues brought before the Federal Government concerning the PIB, gas flaring, 13 percent derivation payment to the states instead of the oil bearing communities, the N98bn gas flare fund and the controversy surrounding the Pipeline Surveillance Contract.