On Monday January 17, 2017, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, started a series of “Interactive Engagements’’ with oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region with the visit to Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State.
Earlier today, the Acting President, Osinbajo continued the engagement in a town hall meeting with leaders and stakeholders from oil-produicing communities in Bayelsa State.
BELOW IS THE FULL SPEECH:
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE Ag. PRESIDENT, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, AT A TOWN HALL MEETING HELD AT THE BAYELSA STATE GOVERNMENT HOUSE BANQUET HALL, YENAGOA IN CONTINUATION OF THE SERIES OF INTERACTIVE ENGAGEMENTS WITH OIL-PRODUCING COMMUNITIES IN THE NIGER DELTA
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10, 2017
I am extremely pleased and honored to be here today visiting the warm, friendly and hardworking people of Bayelsa State.
It is a privilege to be hosted in the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation and to interact with a people whose rich ancestry is notably marked, since the precolonial era, with a determined quest for fairness and justice.
I am here as an emissary of our President, President Mohammadu Buhari, who after the visit of leadership of The PAN DELTA FORUM in November 2016, decided that we must undertake visits to engage with the leadership and people of our oil producing communities, to hear them, to seek to understand their problems and concerns first hand and to offer to these communities in the Niger Delta, a new vision and a new compact.
It is in this great State of Bayelsa precisely at Oloibiri that the history of oil exploration in Nigeria began. It is here that this great source of the wealth of our Nation was discovered. And this oil became the source of 70% of our National earnings and 90% of our foreign exchange earnings.
Over 50% of non-oil revenues is determined by oil revenues. But for the people of historic Oloibiri and the many oil-producing communities in this State and the Delta region of Nigeria, the blessing of oil paradoxically became a curse or at best a burden.
Their means of livelihood, fishing and farming has consistently been destroyed by pollution. Worse still huge resources earned over the years have simply disappeared.
The roads, schools, hospitals and social amenities that the oil wealth should have provided are either not there or are patently inadequate. The majority of people of these communities and several parts of the oil producing states have heard of the wealth that oil has brought but have hardly benefited from it.
And so we have come today on behalf of the President and Commander-in-Chief, with cabinet colleagues, and heads of relevant agencies to propose a new vision and to signpost a new era to the people of the oil producing communities of this state and Nigeria.
The Federal Government will begin a partnership with the oil producing states, local governments, oil companies, private sector, and civil society organizations for the rapid development of these communities.
We must convene an oil-communities intervention meeting to work out what can be done in the short to medium term and the long term possibilities. We must focus on how to ensure that the people see the benefits of the wealth of the land.
This new vision will define the future of the region. Oil exploitation by itself cannot suffice to assure our people of decent jobs and a decent income.
We must make our oil producing communities hubs for petro-chemical industries, small and large. We must make these communities hubs for refining and related activities.
The Ministry of Petroleum in collaboration with the oil companies is working on several initiatives for host communities including working with illegal refiners in oil bearing communities to participate in modular refineries that will be established. There is no doubt that thermal power stations should be stationed here, it makes sense, the gas deposits are here.
The biggest benefit we can obtain is to attract more investment to the region. I listened to my brother Udengs, President of the Ijaw Youth Council, who is one of the most articulate advocates of the Niger Delta cause that I have yet heard. I also listened carefully to the Agricultural economist, Zigha Ayibakuro.
A key point they make of the several important points, is that the young men of Bayelsa are entrepreneurs, driven and dynamic and this is critical. Societies are built on the resourcefulness, innovativeness and drive of the people.
India does not have a drop of oil but it now home to the largest refinery of Petroleum in the world. I want to challenge the young professionals and entrepreneurs to set up A Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship Council. Where we can identify those involved in technology, Agriculture, Oil and Gas, manufacturing and the professions. A chamber of commerce properly organized will attract the right kind of local and international partnerships and even funding. I am prepared to work with you on that.
Today new investments in the oil and gas sector have slowed down so badly because investors have a choice all over the world, even here in Africa, and they will not put their resources in a dangerous or unstable environment.
This is why our oil producing communities must now refuse to participate in the destruction of pipelines and oil facilities. Aside from loss of revenues this also means further pollution of the land and aqua culture.
We must not allow anyone to persuade us that we need to destroy investments, pollute our environment to prove a point or to get a few benefits. That is cutting our nose to spite our face!
From 2015 Nigeria began to lose 1 million barrels of oil daily. Almost 60% of revenues lost to vandalisation. This affected all states, and especially states in the Niger Delta region.
All the requests Udengs made the road to Brass, Airport, etc can only be done when the FG and the states earn revenue. We cannot destroy the sources of revenue and expect revenues.
Your Excellencies, your Royal majesties and the great people of the Ijaw nation, we must make haste. We must move quickly.
Day by day the world is moving away from oil. Other energy sources are getting cheaper, America that used to be the largest importer of our oil, has not imported one drop of our oil since they started producing from Shale.
Our oil now sells to Asia, but even they do not plan to depend on oil forever. China and Japan are now manufacturing electric cars.
In Japan there are more charging stations for cars than petrol stations. We must be wise, to use our oil for development when it is still valuable. Our guarantee of future well-being is to act today. It is time to set our sights on a great future for our people.
Once more, I thank you most sincerely for your very warm welcome, and I especially thank my dear brother, the Governor of the State, Governor Seriake Dickson.
God bless Bayelsa State.
God bless Nigeria.
Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity to the President
Office of the Vice President
February 10, 2017