Each passing day brings to mind the sincere desire by Niger Deltans to have the region genuinely developed via infrastructural provisions, human capital development, environmental protection as well as protection of lives and property of the people of the region.

The latest of such expression came during a recent press briefing in Warri, Delta State, by Chief (COMR.) Mulade Sheriff, National Coordinator, Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), the foremost environmental and peace advocacy group in the Niger Delta region, where he among other remarks observed the tremendous progress that has been recorded in the fight against oil theft by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited in conjunction with the various state security agencies in collaboration with private security firms in the region.

According to him, at the recently held 2024 Faculty Lecture at the Faculty of Science in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, on Wednesday, January 18, during his lecture titled “Energy Security, Sustainability and Profitability in Nigeria: Advances, Challenges and Opportunities” the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kolo Kyari, revealed that 5,686 illegal refinery sites and 4,480 illegal crude oil connections, totalling 10,166 were discovered and destroyed between the periods of 2021 and 2024.

At this point, the environmentalist said something remarkable; While it is not surprising to learn of the statistical breakdown as released by the national oil firm (NNPCL) in the course of their siege against oil theft and vandalism in the region, as a stakeholder I am however glad that these revelations are not only coming to light but have been duly certified by the government, giving credence to our long stand of the massive, colossal degradation that has been ongoing for years in the Niger Delta region.

From colossal degradation that has been ongoing for years in the Niger Delta region, to another issue that should be of great concern to all Niger Deltans.

He said, “It is pertinent to mention that NNPCL and the Nigerian security agencies saddled with the responsibility of protecting oil installations in the region are encouraging criminality by the incessant destruction of stolen crude oil evidence, resultant oil spill carnage, thereby destroying aquatic and agrarian life style. The continuous destruction of the ecosystem and aquatic lifestyle has left the youths with no option than to engage in criminal activities for survival since the means of livelihoods is being destroyed as a result of the incessant oil spill, of largely fishing and crops farming.”

Away from blame to vote of confidence, Mulade eulogized private security outfits engaged in protection of crude oil bearing pipelines.

Lets listen to him, “Since the recruitment of private security firms by the NNPCL to collaborate with other security agencies to wage war against oil theft and vandalism, the Niger Delta people are gradually seeing a new dawn in the Niger Delta as the days of constant water and oil pollution have been fading away.”

At this stage, he amplified what has been on the minds of the Niger Deltans; we also commend the indigenous private security firms in the region, particularly Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, as led by High Chief (Dr.) Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo, for turning the tide in the war against oil theft and drastically reducing oil pollution in the coastal communities. Their efforts are worth commending as they have displayed true patriotism and commitment towards not only safeguarding national assets but securing the future of the Niger Delta region.

On the recent sales of the Shell Petroleum Development Onshore facilities, he observed something new and different; we are in shock but not surprised by the recent sales of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Onshore Facilities Asset to indigenous oil firm led by Reissainance and four others. It is unfortunate that Nigeria is the only country on earth that will permit an International Oil Company to destroy her ecosystem, environment and divest their investment without any penalty.

Today SPDC has grossly destroyed the Niger Delta environment with impunity without recourse to proper remediation plans for the environment and ecological damages done as a result of their exploration activity.

From complaint to appeal, Chief Mulade placed the following requests at the doorstep of President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government.

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According to him, the adverse impact on the communities’ livelihoods, health, and overall well-being cannot be overstated. Consequently, we implore Mr President as the custodian of our nation’s interests, to address the following concerns:

First and key, the communities affected by Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta region have endured severe environmental degradation, and it’s important that the present administration ensure fair and just compensation for the irreversible damage caused to their lands, water sources, and ecosystems.

Secondly, the proposed sale of Shell onshore assets must include stringent provisions for addressing existing liabilities. These provisions should guarantee that the new owners assume responsibility for mitigating and rectifying environmental damage and restoring the affected communities’ ecosystem.

Thirdly, the urgent need for the allocation of a portion of the proceeds from the sale towards comprehensive community development initiatives. These initiatives should focus on sustainable projects that enhance education, healthcare, infrastructure, and economic opportunities for the affected communities.

Another urgent imperative spelt out by the activist is the need for establishing mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in the entire process of the asset sale. The affected communities should be actively involved in decision-making processes to safeguard their interests.

To further strengthen the demands, the activist contended that in 2011, a United Nations report stated that the Federal Government and SPDC were collectively responsible for the Ogoni Pollution. He further revealed that the Court of Appeal at The Hague ruled that Shell Nigeria was responsible for the oil spills in the Niger Delta and that Shell had violated its duty of care to the Niger Delta.

He therefore, stressed that there is a cogent need for the president to please protect the sovereignty of Nigeria and ensure that its consent/approval to the sale of SPDC onshore Assets is contingent on the adequate provision for the environment liabilities which is a clear and present danger to any future oil and gas activity in the area.

‘There is a need to take decisive positive action to rectify the long-standing injustices suffered by the Niger Delta Oil and Gas Producing communities. By doing so, the federal government will not only uphold the principles of justice but also foster sustainable development and harmony within our great nation’.

Even as he thanked Mr President for throwing his weight in support of the NNPCL, Security Agencies and Private Outfits in their attempt to rescue the oil sector from the hands of saboteurs and oil thieves in order to boost more production and earn the country more revenues. Mulade further used the opportunity to appeal to Mr. President to change the narrative and adequately compensate the people of the region who lay the golden eggs (crude oil and gas), most particularly those in oil producing communities who need to feel the presence and impact of government, with massive infrastructures over the long years of their marginalization.

For me, these are not political issues but issues of moral, economic and health concerns and therefore should be given the attention that it deserves by all parties, including the office of Mr. President.

Utomi is the programme coordinator (media and public policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos