The Isoko Development Union (IDU) has given the Federal Government an ultimatum of two weeks to react positively to its request for the right of first refusal in bidding for marginal oil fields in the Niger Delta region or face the shutting down of oil and gas fields in the region.
The Department of Petroleum Resources in June announced the commencement of a bid round for 57 marginal oil fields for local investors, the first of such exercises to be organised since 2002.
In a press conference on Friday in Asaba the President-General of IDU, Chief Iduh Amaidhe, said Isoko people were marginalised in the bidding for the fields.
“This is most unacceptable because we have many of our indigenes who have the expertise, the experience, and resources to play key roles in the oil industry.
“But for too long, outsiders who are not necessarily better qualified than our people are brought into the system to buy our god-given oil assets to our own detriment. This time around, we are not going to allow it. Enough is enough of this injustice.
“We are, therefore, in total agreement with our brothers in Ijaw land, Itsekiri and Urhobo people, that those of us in oil-producing communities should be given the right of first refusal in the bidding process,” he said.
The group called on the Federal Government to discontinue any action that would not be to the favour of members of the community.
“The Isoko people are giving the government two weeks ultimatum to make a positive statement about our demand for fairness and justice, failing which we will be constrained to shut down all oil and gas fields in Isoko land.
“We cannot continue to allow our people to wallow in poverty all because we are denied our birthright to benefit from our god-given gold mine,” Amaidhe said.
He recalled that Uzere, an Isoko community, was the second place where crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria and that the community currently contributed about 19 per cent of the output in Delta State with its eight oil fields.
“It is really very painful that Isoko which has been producing oil for the past 62 years to feed the whole country has been totally denied benefits of the national resource, which contributes over 90 per cent to the foreign earnings,” the IDU president-general said.
“The main reason is that we have always preferred to toe the path of peace instead of violence. It is rather unfortunate that the government only compensates violence and neglects peacemakers like us.”
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) as well as the Gbo Kabaari Ogoni and Ijaw National Congress have also asked the government to give indigenes of Niger Delta the right of first refusal during the bidding process.
“We suffer the consequences of pollution as a result of exploitation and exploration activities. Our rivers, our farmlands, our means of livelihood have been decimated. Our young people are unemployed. We insist that this is an opportunity. There are suitable people in the Niger Delta with technical, financial capacity to muster funds,” PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary Ken Robinson said in June.
“The right of first refusal should be given to the people of the Niger Delta and governments to bid for these marginal fields. Anything short of this will be considered an attempt to continue to oppress, marginalise and sideline the people of the Niger Delta region in a sector where they should be frontline participants,” he said.