SOUTHERN IJAW LOCAL GOVERNMENT OIL AND GAS TASKFORCE — GAINS AND CHALLENGES.
By Dr. Godfrey Pondei.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, a preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruledIndia who employed non-violent civil disobedience in leading India to independence, “whatwe are doing to the forests and waterways of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” This is akin the clarion call by rural dwellers of Southern Ijaw Local Government to find ways of checking further pollution of the ecosystem resulting from activities of illegal bunkering, pipeline vandalism and refining of petroleum products.
Responsive as the Chief Ogbe-led administration in Southern Ijaw Local Government has proven to be from inception, a meeting of paramount rulers, community development committee chairmen, youth presidents and women leaders drawn from every autonomous community in the area was convened. Resultantly, the well-attended meeting rose with a communique to discontinue all forms of illegal bunkering, pipeline vandalism and refining ofpetroleum products in the area.
As a government that upholds the rule of law, the Southern Ijaw Local Government sets outto fully execute the framework to eradicate the aforestated nefarious activities. In doing this,the Southern Ijaw Local Government boss proposed an executive bill to the Southern IjawLocal Government Legislative Arm for the establishment of a Southern Ijaw Local Government Oil and Gas Taskforce.
Consequent upon its passage into a bylaw and subsequent inauguration on Wednesday 7thMay 2014, the taskforce, collaborating with the Joint Task Force (Operation Pulo Shield), theNigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the Nigerian Navy have been traversing therivers, creeks and tributaries of Southern Ijaw Local Government with a view to eradicatingillegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism in the area. Resultantly, it is gratifying to note thatrural dwellers have reverted to the status quo of accessing water from natural sources.Agreeably, since the Southern Ijaw Local Government Oil and Gas Taskforce assumed duty,the production capacity of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company for instance in its “TebidabaSwamp Area Field’ has increased to an all-high level in six years. Obviously, this experience has boosted the crude production capacity of Bayelsa State and by extension Nigeria. Just a few months ago, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company had threatened to shut down operations in the area as it was unable to pay staff emoluments.
Mischievous as it may seem, as a consequence of the foregoing efforts of the Southern Ijaw Local Government aimed at totally eradicating illegal bunkering, pipeline vandalism and illegal refining of petroleum products, there have been several threats on the life of the Southern Ijaw Local Government helmsman, the Special Adviser to the Executive Chairman on Oil and Gas, Director of Security, the Chief Security Officer, leadership and members of the taskforce. A case in point was the trailing of the Executive Chairman along the marine routes leading to Amassoma by unknown gunmen in military camouflage. This was preceded by the recent invasion of the base of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Oil and Gas Taskforce in Olugbobiri community. Investigations reveal that these threats are not unconnected with the involvement of some ex-militants of the area who have been beneficiaries of the aforestated acts that have caused devastation to the ecosystem, and of course the loss of lives. Also worrisome are plans by this cartel of pipeline vandals, illegal bunkerers, and illegal crude refiners who have directed their killer squads to monitor the movement of family members of the Executive Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government and other principal officers to assassinate them.
It therefore becomes imperative for the Nigerian Police and other security agents to interveneby mobilizing more personnel to the area. Understanding how capital intensive surveillanceoperations such as this could be, and its attendant benefit to the nation, the federalgovernment of Nigeria should equally complement the efforts of the Southern Ijaw Local Government in order to sustain this intervention that has already begun yielding dividends.Multinational corporations operating in the area on their part could synergise with the Southern Ijaw Local Government in institutionalizing the security of pipelines, whilecommunities are enjoined to report suspected offenders to law-enforcement agents. All hands must be on deck in sustaining a healthy environment for all.