…warns ‘if they change oil laws after Bauchi, Gombe discovery we’ll demand reparation
If they change oil laws after Bauchi, Gombe discovery we’ll demand reparation A former President of Ijaw Youth Council, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, has said that the people of the Niger Delta deserve better treatment from the Federal Government. In this interview on Channels Television’s Morning Show monitored by OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI, Dokubo advised the government to do proper monitoring of the activities in the Niger Delta Region. Excerpts:
Why is the crude oil theft in the Niger Delta persistently happening?
A lot of people testify to the activities of the criminals and the plight of the people of the Niger Delta. They try to justify that the resources belong to us, which is true, and that we have the right to have access to these resources, which is also true. But a group of people, an infinitesimal percentage of the people, collude with people from outside the Niger Delta, become business partners and steal these resources. In stealing these resources, they inflict environmental genocide on the people. They inflict economic genocide on the people, I am an Ijaw man and I am from Kalabari. The mainstay of the economy of Ijaw people is fishing. The discharge from their illegal activities, whether it is taken with tankers outside or from their artisan refinery, the discharges that they discharge do not meet international standard of the oil industry. They discharge the residue into the sea and this affects the Marine life, kill everything and our people can no longer fish. They are not up to one percent of the people.
You mean the people who go into the business?
The people from the region are in most cases funded by outsiders; the people who bring these big tankers are not Niger Deltans. If they are Niger Deltans, they will be so few; may be those who have access to government and government money. To get a tanker from here to Togo, Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire, where they take them to, you need close to one to two million US dollars, and the government knows about it.
You mean to get the tankers there?
There is a mother vessel which anchors outside Nigerian territorial waters. Then there is a feeder vessel, this one could be two thousand or three thousand tonnes, flat bottom and so on, to go into the creeks and get these things. To fill most of these tankers take up to one month.
One month to finish one operation?
Two thousand tonnes and the flat bottom vessels can take three thousand tonnes. This is bigger than your station here. They go to fetch from the manifold or well head. This is where the mega money is. They now take this to the mother vessel, which would be about one million barrel. Majority of the low level involvement are Ijaw people, my people and they would now load. Where is the security, where is the Navy, Customs, others? These are the questions people should be able to ask. This does not concern NNPC now; we always play this blame game. This one does not concern the one that takes place at the discharging point, which is the terminal.
Which agency is supposed to be at the discharging point or terminal?
At the discharging point there are so many agencies, the military intelligence is there, different departments of the NNPC are there. But we are now talking of the one that is outside official stealing of these resources. They steal it in the daylight. They have three shuttle vessels. These shuttle vessels go from the manifold or the well heads and discharge outside the Nigerians territorial waters in the night. They start may be around 8pm and by 2am they would have finished loading and go outside the territorial waters and they discharge. Now, calculate, if it is one million barrel or 500,000 barrel tanker, calculate how many days, weeks or months it would take to fill a super tanker like that. During this period, are we pretending that the security is not there?
Are you saying the security agencies know these things?
Definitely, the security agencies know about it, we should not do hide and seek as if it is rocket science. I cannot say much about what happens at Focardoes, Escravos or Bonny Terminal because I don’t work in NNPC. But we know that racketeering is going on there.
In the terminals?
Yes, we have seen them.
Can these things happen without collusion with NNPC officials?
It cannot happen without people colluding with the people in the NNPC, which is why the GMD of the NNPC said that his life was in danger. The life of anybody who comes out to confront them is in danger. It’s people like us that they cannot touch. Don’t they fear death, they are also afraid of dying. Those people, big men such as the NNPC GMD say that their lives are in danger. People make more money from stealing oil than going into drugs. Then you come to the artisan refinery. They cook this product, they do it in a very crude way, they try to refine it and the petrol tankers that come to load them are they hidden, are they not plying the roads and you have the IG monitoring team on the road. You have civil defense, regular police are on the road, army checkpoints are on the road, are they not seeing these people?
How do you see the decision of the government to award the protection of the pipelines to Tompolo, is it going to work?
It is the will, for instance, when the government came out with the policy of changing naira, it triggered a fall in the value of foreign currencies for a few days, but not up to a week the naira began to fall again, so everything is about the will. The will to sustain what the government wants to do is what we are talking about. It’s not who the contract is given to, it’s not about the person, the people in the NNPC must have the will. I say things very raw, even if they didn’t give me the job of securing the pipeline, I don’t mind, but I am entitled to it. This thing has been existing over the years. Tompolo knows it that this thing is affecting the lives of our people, they are sucking the blood of the people. I disagreed when Tompolo was given the contract, I thought it was wrong, he is not from my place. I know the place better than he knows it. But, an Ijaw man, the Ijaw nation intervened and said that we should not quarrel. Since this government came, we have survived, I didn’t die. So, why would I quarrel with my brother?
Are you working together now?
We talk though I am not part of it. I give him my advice if he asks for it. Ijaw nation is greater than all of us. Whatever I am today, it is Ijaw Nation that made me by the grace of God. They gave me a platform the opportunity to become the President of Ijaw Youth Council.
When you say there should be the will, it is that the NNPC GMD would give out the contract and people within the same NNPC would sabotage it?
They have been awarding the contract from time immemorial, but the GMD and NNPC top shots go to the scene of the theft and the discovery that they have made has never happened. When you see something different you should appreciate it. When former President Goodluck Jonathan was there, they gave us the contract to secure the pipeline and we tried our best. I was given Rivers State, Ateke Tom, Dagogo and others also got. We had a joint company and oil theft was reduced to almost zero. But, we didn’t see NNPC officials going to see these things. We worked for only one year and the contract was cancelled.
Does it mean that it would be difficult to prosecute some people that are involved in this?
Some people were prosecuted and they went to prison, I know an Alhaji in Port Harcourt that was in detention and came out blind, but at that time it was not this sort of magnitude. You are just looking at the pipeline, you have not seen the devastation to the environment. Even the multinational companies did not do as much damage to the environment as we have done with our own hands.
How about the clean-up that is going on now?
The clean-up is the most crooked and the most roguish programme that has ever been brought. How can you say you are cleaning only Ogoniland, is it only Ogoniland that is affected? When you talk Ogoni people would attack you. Go to Abia State, Oguta and other places and see what is happening there, you will weep. About 100 were killed and they say about 40 people were killed, it’s a lie, I was there.
Would you support that all those involved should be arrested and prosecuted?
All those involved should be arrested and prosecuted because the crime they are committing will take generations to correct. We are not going to deal with them with gloves. You want to kill thousands of people and impoverish a big population because you want to make money, change the demography and the livelihood of the people. As an Ijaw man there is no land for me to farm, no land for me to fish. You want to change my way of life from time immemorial because of your greed and the money you want to get, while the bulk of the money is made by the people who are using you.
Is the challenge of oil theft primarily lack of security or humanitarian challenge, may be when people are not taken care of they then resort to self-help?
Security is number one, on the side of the Nigerian government, the security is compromised. You see Nigerian Army at the site of the bunkering with their gun boats. The army officers have speed boats, gun boats; when the ships are there for one month and they use feeder vessels to load them, the Navy cannot see them? Don’t we have satellite that can capture them? These are bigger than your studio and bigger than this building. The other one is if you will justify self-help, that if they don’t give us, we will take it ourselves. If the people are well treated will they do this? But the question is what is the quantum of these people who are involved in this activity? The percentage they are not up to one percent. So one percent should further contribute to the deprivation of the environment and commit environment and economic genocide against us and do all sorts of things and change the topography and everything.
How did you receive the newly proposed leadership of the NDDC?
The Chairman of the NDDC does not have executive powers, the Managing Director has the executive power, he is one of us; he was the Publicity Secretary of IYC in the Central Zone. This is the first time someone who knows the pains of the people would head the NDDC.
A few days ago, the Federal Government launched the discovery of oil in other parts of the country?
We thank God, I am so happy, if the laws would be changed because oil has not been discovered outside the Niger Delta, then there will be issues. We want to see the laws that would be made to govern the exploration of oil in Gombe and Bauchi; if they change the laws, we will be free to demand reparation.
As a patriotic Nigerian, what lessons would you say have been learned and things that must not be repeated in other places and how do you think the government should compensate the people of the Niger Delta?
For me, we are always talking about the will. We have NDDC, how has it fared, have they been allowed to operate within the law that set it up. Even now, the appointment into the board does not meet the law that set it up. Also, what is the Ministry of Niger Delta doing? Is it properly funded and the when the funds are released, do the people see the effects of the funds. Has the Amnesty programme operated properly? Are the funds reaching the people, who are the people that are trained, where are they working? Why should some people be paid and taking care of at the expense of other people that have suffered. These are the moral questions.