Sunday 4 November 2012

(NEWS ANALYSIS) Oil well dispute: Detonating another time bomb

THE nation, indeed, should have cause to jitter and be apprehensive over the smouldering feud between Rivers and Bayelsa states over the disputed five oil wells located in Soku and Elem-Sangama communities. The reasons are many, but chiefly among them are the fact that the region is the geographical constituency of Mr President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and that the crisis is festering at a time the country is savouring the relative air of tranquility and peace in the region, courtesy of the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government for Niger Delta militants. Coupled with this is the fact that the row is coming at a period Nigerians are yet to overcome the ripples generated by the cession of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroun. There is also the prevalent security challenge in the country, which has taken different shades and shapes in many places. No doubt, the current imbroglio between the ‘hitherto’ brotherly states is capable of putting President Goodluck Jonathan on the spot or in a dilemma. His home state, Bayelsa, used to be part of Rivers before it was carved out about 16 years ago. Therefore, he requires divine wisdom and other virtues of a statesman for him to be an unbiased arbitrator as he embarks on a troubleshooting mission. However, there is a greater cause for worry because of the intemperate language and conduct of a number of the principal vested interests in the oil palaver. While some stakeholders are threatening fire and brimstone, others have been posturing dangerously over the crisis. It is apparent that some mistakes have been made in certain quarters over the matter. Some government agencies have shown tardiness and shoddiness on their statutory responsibilities culminating in the feud. This, perhaps, explains why some of the agencies have been trying to pass the buck among themselves, a factor underscored by the clarification made by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) on the whole issue. While technically absolving itself from the problem, the body emphasises that it does not unilaterally act in performing its statutory duties but relies on data or information from relevant government agencies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), National Boundary Commission and the office of the surveyor-general of the federation. The perceived lapses that have created the ongoing hoopla appear to have compelled one of the parties to pass a vote of no confidence in appropriate agencies that are either directly or indirectly charged with handling such matter, with aggrieved parties claiming the agencies had “kept deaf ears” to genuine complaints,” the camp was now “at the crossroads.” On their part, some community leaders have publicly denounced perceived “malicious, myopic and selfish interest of certain well-placed officials to balkanise and excise virtually all the oil and gas bearing communities” in a particular kingdom and have warned, their youths were “already running out of patience.” In fact, there are accusations that the National Boundary Commission (NBC) cannot absolve itself from the current quagmire. The Nigerian elite are notorious for starting the kind of current battle under the guise of protecting a general interest albeit using the people as canon fodders. There is an urgent need for caution and restraint among the belligerent forces in view of the volatility of the Niger Delta region and the issue at stake. The ongoing unnecessary display of emotional outbursts by all the vested interests in the imbroglio can only further heat up the polity. Rather than deploying anachronistic styles and approaches in seeking justice and equity, the stakeholders must adopt logic, reason and wisdom. Instead of resorting to crash impunity and savagery reserved for the jungle, the vested interests should unambiguously toe the path of legality, legitimacy and constitutionality as obtainable and applicable in other sane and democratic climes

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