COVID-19 Pandemic: Oil-bearing Communities Are Grappling With Harsh Economic Condition, Says Group

Oil-bearing community
Oil-bearing community

By: Akanimo Sampson

Oil-bearing riverine communities of the Niger Delta are grappling with harsh economic condition occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI).

The group, therefore, wants the authorities to provide palliatives to indigent people of the riverine communities.

The situation in the communities is made worse by oil pollution which has significantly harmed the natural environment on which they depend for their livelihood and sustenance.

The direct consequence of oil pollution is that it has led to multidimensional and protracted conflicts in oil-bearing communities.

They also complained about environmental pollution and destruction of their land and rivers by foreign oil companies.

LPCDI’s National President, Reuben Wilson and Secretary, Nature Kieghe, in a statement also called on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for urgent measures to halt the pains being inflicted on concerned contractors by commencing payment to those who had completed their projects in accordance with their contractual obligations, especially the ” quick impact emergency contracts”.

“We should not turn the Commission to a cash cow for few privileged persons across the country but ensure that it fulfills its mandate by transforming the current pathetic state of the Niger Delta to a modern and conducive environment for the betterment of the region and its people.

“We advise the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC to work in unison in discharging their duties and mandate by eschewing any form of rancour that can cause disunity among them’’, and bemoaned the untold hardship experienced by contractors after certified completion of works without being paid.

NDDC had previously claimed that the delay in payment was occasioned by the ongoing audit at the interventionist agency.

But some of the contractors, according to the group, are facing threats of forfeiture of collateral to banks over unpaid loans.

“The contractors that are mostly affected are the ones that have completed their emergency contracts awarded by the Nsima Ekere administration. Most of them borrowed money from the banks with their houses as collateral to finance the execution of the emergency contracts.

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“We are, therefore, calling on the Interim Management Committee to commence payment of such contractors to avoid banks seizing their houses used as collateral. The unnecessary delay of their payments will have huge negative effects on the execution of NDDC projects in the future because it will certainly discourage other contractors from going the extra-mile to complete such projects.

“This will occasion more abandoned and sub-standard projects in the Niger Delta. We are also calling on the members of the National Assembly not to constitute themselves as impediments to the accelerated development of the Niger Delta.

“The lawmakers should not involve in frustrating and politicising their responsibilities toward the NDDC. The NDDC is an interventionist agency designed to accelerate the development of the Niger Delta.

“But our findings have revealed that some, instead of using their oversight functions and budgetary powers to facilitate the development of the region through the NDDC, use such powers to frustrate the smooth operations of NDDC.

“We are therefore, appealing to such members of the National Assembly to desist from such unpatriotic and negative acts and use their constitutional powers to facilitate the development of the region via the NDDC.

“This is very imperative because if the development of the Niger Delta is not given priority attention, it is possible that the existing fragile peace in the region may not be sustained for long. We all know the consequences of allowing the past to resurface.

“As active actors in the past and critical stakeholders of the struggle for the betterment of the Niger Delta, we don’t want such a repeat of the past. This is therefore a solemn appeal to members of the National Assembly to give priority to the development of the Niger Delta in the discharge of their duties.

“We are also using this medium to call on all Niger Delta people in leadership positions both in the executive and legislature, especially at the Federal level to unite and use such positions to advance the betterment of the Niger Delta,’’ the group said.

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LPCDI is alleging that there are formidable forces from outside the region bent on keeping the Niger Delta in perpetual political slavery and underdevelopment, adding that such forces sponsor disunity and division among the region.

It has advised the people of the region who are holding public offices to give priority to the development of the area in a bid to drastically reduce the internal wranglings and the plethora of petitions.