By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: Civil rights advocacy group—Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Tuesday said that it is concerned about how the Imo state oil producing areas have been maltreated, marginalized, neglected and kept out of the inner caucus of the top management positions of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for so long.
This is just as the Rights group, also expressed concerns about the general state of infrastructural marginalization of the entire crude oil producing states which includes; Abia State, Akwa-lbom State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, Delta State, Edo State, Imo State, Ondo State, and Rivers State.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, emphasized that the case of the Imo state crude oil producing areas is particularly humiliating and constitutes the gravest violations of environmental and fundamental human rights.
He further added that the state of degradation of the environment caused by the activities of the operators of the crude oil minerals drilling firms and the central government is utterly despicable and reprehensible.
According to him, “It is imperative to note that Ohaji Egbema and Ugwuta Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Imo State have the highest gas deposit in the whole of West Africa, currently explored by Seplat, Shell and these two LGAs in imo State house the highest number of Oil Wells and Flow Stations in Nigeria.
“To now observe that these specific areas in Imo State that are statistically noted for being the home to some of the largest crude oil minerals deposits in the Country and holds the records as being the area in which the largest concentration of Gas deposits in Africa are found, but yet this uniquely gifted crude oil minerals producing areas in Imo state have consistently got the short end of the stick in virtually all the previous strategic management appointments of the top three officers of the NDDC, is unjust, unconstitutional, unfair and morally disgusting.
“This makes it of the highest imperative need for us in the organised human rights community in Nigeria to appeal to Mr. President who is the appointing authority to do the needful by considering nominees from the Imo State crude oil producing areas to hold one of the top three executive positions in the NDDC, so the longstanding injustices against these marginalized people from a place that is the hen that lays the Golden Egg for Nigeria’s sustainability for years, are carried along and adequately given their due rights and privileges”, he said.
He expressed hopes that President Muhammadu Buhari in his comprehensive drive to sanitise the management of the NDDC with the forensic auditing of the financial health of the NDDC, will inevitably see the need for the correction of the lopsided appointments in the leadership of the NDDC.
Onwubiko further noted that the bias appointment, which has persisted since the Commission came into existence over the years, has assumed a critical and sensitive dimension of great concern that if left uncorrected, is capable of threatening the operations and truncating the activities of the Commission.
While emphasizing that nobody from the South East States of Abia and Imo has been appointed into the management positions of NDDC, either as a Managing Director, or the other two Executive Directors previously, Onwubiko noted that the mood of South East members of the NDDC, caught up in this situation, is not only fast turning to frustration, helplessness, and despondency, but also that of anxiety borne out of the fear of a deliberate attempt to side-line the Igbo speaking states in the NDDC from the mainstream scheme of activities in the Commission.
Fielding questions from Journalists on the three percent allocation to host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), he pointed out that it is total fraud.
“What is three percent when Zamfara state enjoys 100 percent of their Gold? Who takes the 97 percent? The oil producing areas should stand up and speak as one, so that the Bill is not signed into law. It is an injustice that is about to be Institutionalized”, he stated.