Egbema-Ijaw people in Edo and Delta States have demanded for equity in the Marginal Fields allocation, asking President Buhari to intervene in the matter by considering their proposal.
The Egbema-Ijaw and other host communities of the Niger Delta should “be given the right of first refusal” in such matters with at least a 25 per cent equity holding on all fields within Egbema territory.
Egbema-Ijaw leaders also cried foul over the reported on-going fresh bid for the award of 57 Marginal Fields to prospective oil and gas operators in the Niger Delta describing it as fraudulent and a sham.
The group, which described as a “ruse” the impression that due process was being followed regarding the current bid process for the 57 marginal fields, however, warned that such would end up as an exercise in futility unless the oil-bearing communities, particularly, communities of Egbema Kingdom, were duly carried along.
In a statement by Hon. Joel Bisina and Ambassador Jude Ebitimi Ukori, the Egbema leaders lamented the fact that the federal government seemed to be progressing in error by allegedly following in the old order of utter disregard for the oil and gas host communities while awarding juicy contracts for oil exploitation to those the group termed “cronies of the federal government”.
The leaders urged President Buhari to intervene to halt the injustice against the poverty-ridden neglected oil and gas host community by ensuring that host communities are adequately consulted in issues of allocation of oil blocs and marginal fields in order to make the process transparent and the oil and gas production, successful.
“It is a well-known fact that Egbema-Ijaw Kingdom is a major producer of oil and gas, which constitutes the revenue base of the country. As a result of the exploration of oil and gas in our communities, the kingdom has suffered environmental degradation and our livelihoods have been destroyed over the years, yet, the federal government has persistently neglected these communities to live in abject poverty.
“The Egbema-Ijaw Kingdom is host to several Oil Mineral Licenses (OMLs) originally ceded to the international oil companies (IOCs) for exploration and production activities and out of which the Marginal Fields were extracted. The original intention of creating marginal fields was to build indigenous capacity and deepen local involvement in the oil and gas industry.
“Yet, over the years the federal government, in its typical manner of displaying absolute disregard for the local oil bearing communities, had flagrantly allocated the Marginal Fields, in contravention of the original plan, to its own cronies without any regard for the host communities. Consequently, some of the Marginal Fields taken away from the IOCs and awarded to these cronies and so-called operators have remained unfarmed many years after.
“It is widely rumoured that the current bid exercise lacks transparency and integrity as it was in the past, as the bulk of the 57 Marginal Fields have already been allocated to non-indigenes and cronies of government under the table and this bid round is a ruse intended to give an appearance of following due process.
“We warn that any allocation arising from this exercise that does not take our needs as host communities into adequate consideration would be an exercise in futility as the allotees would not be allowed to effectively farm the fields.
“Therefore, we the people of Egbema Kingdom call on Mr. President to ensure that our rights and interests as host communities in this bid exercise are not sidelined through any form of manipulations. The result should command the respect and acceptability of the people of Egbema Kingdom in order to ensure a peaceful and productive farming of the fields in our Kingdom.”
To the end, the leaders demanded that, “Egbema-Ijaw people and indeed Niger Deltans should be given the right of first refusal before consideration is given to outsiders; at the minimum a 25% equity holding on all the fields within Egbema territory if the federal wants an unfettered access by prospective winners.”