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AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI FROM OGULAGHA COMMUNITY – DELTA STATE

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Ogulagha Community, Ogulagha
Email: ogulaghacommunity@yahoo.com

The President,
The Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Presidential Villa,
F.C.T Abuja.

Sir,

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT-MUHAMMADU BUHARI [GCFR] ON THE MATTER OF  CONTEMPTUOUS PRESIDENTIAL-VISIT BY THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA-[PROFESSOR YEMI OSIBANJO] ON 15/04/2016, TO THE OIL-RICH OGULAGHA COMMUNITY OF OGULAGHA KINGDOM IN BURUTU LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL AREA OF DELTA STATE, WHERE THE SPDC FORCADOS-CRUDE EXPORT TERMINAL, IS SITUATE

INTRODUCTION:-

The famous presidential-visit of the Vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria-[Professor Yemi Osibanjo] on 15/04/2016 to the oil-rich-Ogulagha community of Ogulagha kingdom in Burutu Local Government Council Area of Delta State may have come and gone but not without provocating the sensibility of the Traditional institution amongst other well established institutions in the kingdom due to the resultant bitter or soured taste left behind in the mouth of the people

The Vice-President amidst other Federal Government functionaries including the Delta State Governor and the top echelon of the Management team of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), visited the “Forcados-crude-export-terminal” in the community on 15/04/2016, unannounced. The Vice-President’s visit was part of the Federal Government’s fact-finding/inspection tour of the 48” Forcados-crude-Export-trunk-line, which traversed the entire community landmass/settlement down to the deep waters at the Atlantic, alleged to have been vandalized by some unknown persons. The unannounced Presidential visit of the Vice-President to the oil rich Ogulagha Kingdom on 15/04/2016 was no doubt carried out and conducted to the chagrin and consternation of all and sundry before, during and after the said visit.

In the cause of this obviously public, but unannounced presidential visit, the Vice-President took out time to crèche-cross the entire length and breadth of the right of way (ROW) and inspected the 48” crude Export-Trunk-line situate within measurable Meters from the community main settlement, allegedly destroyed by vandals on 14/02/2016. Both the print and the electronic media, were awash with media reports given comprehensive account of the said visit, replete with several interviews granted by the Vice-President himself. The visit of the Vice-President to the oil-rich settlement could not have therefore qualified as either, unscheduled or private visit for that matter.

The Federal Government and indeed the Vice-President, as a true citizen of this country is fully aware of the cordial relationship that exists between our people and the Shell Petroleum Development Company in the 48 years of SPDC’s existence and/or operations in the community before proceeding on the un-announced visit of 14/05/2016. This peaceful co-existence which is a clear testimony of the humane and friendly disposition of our people in the “48 year-old-marriage or partnership, has never ever been reciprocated by any of the “Natural resource-looters” of this God given wealth of the people, including the Federal Government.

For the avoidance of doubt and for the benefit of the general public, the “Ogulagha community” as the Administrative head-quarters of the kingdom, currently houses the Multi-billion-Dollar “Forcados-crude-oil-storage and Export tank-farm”, where crude oil is being exported on daily basis from the storage terminal to the “crude oil loading platform” situate less than, 15 Nautical miles from the shore line of the community into the deep-high-Seas. Statistics currently at public domain rated this facility and the surrounding “on-shore” and “off-shore” facilities operated by the “Dutch” oil giant, i.e. (SPDC), to be within an aggregate of 85% of the total Revenue, accruable to the Federation Account from this part of the country alone.

The Vice-President’s refusal to pay the mandatory courtesy-call to officially identify with the people during the visit of 15/04/2016 in the face of the community’s enormous contribution to the Revenue base of this Country makes the entire visit indisputably provocative and laughable, to say the least. The Vice-President, who on behalf of the Federal Government embarked on the visit, ought to have reasonably known, that the settlement he visited on 15/04/2016 called “Ogulagha”, where the “Forcados export terminal” is situate, is a place inhabited by reasonable sons and daughters of high repute and candour under the able leadership of a “Crowned” and/or “Gazetted” Traditional Ruler and not charlatans to be so, ingloriously treated in the manner the Vice-President did.
The Vice-President on assumption of office and under similar circumstances had visited several other communities across States of the Federation and paid the mandatory courtesy-calls on Traditional Rulers and their subjects to our full knowledge, if our memories can recall. The reason or reasons why, the 15/04/2016 visit to the oil-rich community by Mr. Vice-President was conducted in the manner it went is the most disturbing question on the lips of many.

There is a federal legislator from the kingdom currently at the House of Representatives at the National Assembly. It will not be too shocking under the foregoing circumstances, if this Parliamentarian representing the Burutu federal constituency who hails from the kingdom, was also not put in the know before the visit of the Vice-President to the community. This is quite disturbing, especially when, coming from a government that is desirous of effecting positive change to move away from the primordial ways of governance in this country. The people need to be consulted by government in those things that directly affect them.  This is the only way the principle of reciprocity, regulating the affairs of man and those managing his affairs can be guaranteed and given its true meaning in this part of the world.

The people raised questions and concern when rumours made the rounds on the proposed visit of the Vice-President to the Area. All entreaties from the leadership of the kingdom to key into the itinerary of the Vice-President’s visit were disgracefully rebuffed and treated with ingnomny. The visit of 15/04/2016 would have no doubt afforded the Vice-president of this great country, the singular honour and privilege of meeting the people of this highly “impoverished settlement” with “abundant human and natural resources” to feel their plight including the deprivation they suffer in midst of plenty and report to Mr. President on the way forward. This was never done during this unique moment provided by nature, for Mr. Vice-President to grab!

Mr. Vice-President ought to have conducted his first ever visit to the oil-rich Ogulagha kingdom to rekindle and keep hopes of the people alive by re-assuring the people of the emerging new Nigeria, we all look forward to. The Vice-President rather, chose this unique occasion to hobnob with top officials of SPDC without reference to the people, who have suffered untold hardship and neglect in the face of the ever-unending oil-exploration and exploitative activities on the land by the Federal government and SPDC. The Vice-President came on the inspection tour of the ruptured “48-Export-Trunk-line” on behalf of the Federal Government with a “registered impression” and returned with that same “registered impression” from the presidency. The Vice-President ought to have availed himself, the unique opportunity to critically evaluate and balance those “impressions” by meeting the people one on one to hear their own side of the story as demanded by jurisprudence of fair hearing. This, the vice president failed to do.

CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS AND REPORTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RUPTURED FORCADOS 48” EXPORT-TRUNK-LINE.

Disturbing and conflicting reports and accounts have continued to trail the Forcados 48” Export-trunk-line incident of 14/02/2016, touching on the circumstances under which, the “48 Export-Trunk-line” gave-way in the area. Whilst some accounts, are that, the facility was vandalized by vandals and oil thieves; there is yet another account which says, the trunk-line gave-way due to “over-aging” and/or, “aged-nature” of the facility, which is almost 50 years today.

We are however aware that Persons, who desired cheap popularity and recognition by all means came out in the media to claim responsibility for the vandalized equipment thus, creating room for proper investigative process into the two diametrically conflicting accounts, touching on the incident of 14/02/2016. The relevant machineries put in place by SPDC and the government to appropriately ascertain and confirm, what led to the failure of the said equipment on 14/02/2016, is yet to reveal any act of sabotage, traceable to the community or at all. The military operatives, keeping close track of these facilities as a surveillance team day-in, day-out are yet to come up with any lead on the matter. The report of the joint investigation carried out on 17/02/2016, by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other Federal Government parastatals to wit: DPR, NOSDRA as well as leaders of our community is yet to confirm any act of sabotage, traceable to any member of the Ogulagha community.  Photo-shots, which ought to have been taken to show detailed images of the purportedly vandalized Equipment sub-merged in the deep sea, if ever taken, are yet to be made public to confirm any purported act of sabotage, amidst claim by some unknown “public attention seekers”, claiming responsibility for the act.

The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and her joint-partners on account of this same Equipment failure which ravaged and destroyed the entire landmass and body of waters, within the settlements occupied by the people drafted relief materials, including food items on 22/02/2016 to the surrounding communities to help, cushion the effect of the spill knowing that the people have no hands, whatsoever in it. Our experiences and clear understanding of the workings or modus-oparandi of SPDC to events of this nature over the years, are quite instructive and re-callable. The Shell Petroleum Development Company has never taken responsibility to send relief materials to communities for any Equipment failure, occasioned or made traceable to an act of sabotage as a matter of policy. We shall live the rest of the argument for the general public to draw the needed and possible inferences!

The Federal Government shortly after the visit of the Vice-President on 15/04/2016 went ahead to order her contractors to mobilize to site and commence repair works on the said facility without ascertaining the real cause of the incident of 14/02/2016. Our people are yet to come to terms with the steps taken by the Federal Government in mobilizing to site in the face of several unresolved environmental and occupational issues associated with the unfortunate incident of 14/02/2016. We do not see this step as the most compelling step under the circumstance. The style and attitude, obviously displayed or shown by the government and SPDC as critical stake-holders “in the oil business”, towards the oil-bearing communities in this country, is most unfortunate. This need to be condemned with every available term. The move by the Federal Government and SPDC to quickly put back on-track, the facility so as to continue to tap the benefits under the protective cover of cynically drafted legislative-Instruments deliberately designed to de-emphasis the interest of the oil-bearing communities, is with respect, unacceptable. The same does not hold anything good for the people and the Nation at large.

The Federal Government, through the “Delta Naval Command” has already directed all persons including men and women in our communities not to do or carry out their usual fishing activities in and around the Area whilst, the repair works last. This optional choice appears or seems to be the only key point of interest of the government towards the incidence of 14/02/2016 that would have killed and destroyed the entire people if same had caught fire and went in flames. The community is currently occupied by close to a “Million-Armed-military personnel”, policing the fishing grounds of our people including the inter-lands. Our people are likely to be molested and/or intimidated by these Armed-Military-men, if not cautioned by their superiors as plans are afoot for the repair works to take-off fully.  Our people have been asked and forced to sit down at home and not to go about their legitimate fishing businesses for no fault of theirs. Yet, Mr. Vice-President, chose to ignore all these details due to the “imagined impressions” created at the presidency shortly before proceeding on the visit from the Federal Capital territory, Abuja.

Our people shall continue to be law abiding and shall stay clear from carrying out their legitimate fishing activities, while the repair works last.  We must however be quick to add and place on record, that the JIV report as, fall-out from the joint inspection exercise carried out by all the stake-holders on 17/02/2016, be made public as quickly as possible in the overall interest of all persons of good conscience. The people need an unbiased JIV report for the records and for purposes of further engagement with the government and SPDC. The unbiased report would form the fulcrum for measuring the quantum of damages and compensation that would be ultimately demanded, and made payable by SPDC and the government to the people in the days and weeks to come.

The people are already working-out details of the sums payable to each fishing family so affected. The people shall submit same to the Federal Government and SPDC after due assessment and collation in no distant date for payment of a fair and adequate compensation to the people. The daily earnings of our people from their fishing business now put on hold or disrupted must be assuaged or atoned for by the government and SPDC for as long as the people remain at home for the duration of the repair works. This limb of claim is to be considered along with compensation monies that would be ultimately demanded from SPDC for payment to the community as a result of the pollution and the environmental degradation that came with the 48” Forcados-trunk-line, incident of 14/02/2016. This is one key aspect of the peoples’ grievance, that would no doubt, create a big dead-log between the Federal Government, SPDC and our people in the days and weeks to come and the people are ready for it.

The “change mantra” of Mr. President and the APC led Government at the centre must be seen to be matching actions with words. The current policy direction and activities of the Federal Government coming to the fore, seems absolutely unconvincing of the seriousness and genuineness attached to the “change mantra” of this government. The “multi-billion-Dollar” Forcados Export terminal of over forty-eight (48), years has never ever, attracted a high-profiled Federal Government official in the caliber of a Vice-President to our community, before the visit of the 15th day of April, 2016. Not even former President- Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who un-arguably hails from the Niger Delta region in his eight (8) years or so Administration, attempted a visit to the oil rich Ogulagha settlement.

Successive Administrations in the State have also ignored and continued in this unending lack of care and concern for a people that bear the “golden-egg” that feeds the entire state and the nation at large. The only primary concern of government at all levels in this country is to continue to explore and exploit the mineral deposits in the community and ignore the statutory duties imposed on them by legislative Instruments in this country to return part of the derivable-benefits for the development of the oil-bearing communities.

Government is under a duty to reciprocate gestures that creates peaceful-working environment and ensure at all times, that the welfare and security of the people within the ambits of legislative Instruments are respected at all times. The show of one-sidedness, on the part of government and the desire of government to mindlessly protect her stake or interest at all times and at all cost, in terms of the derivables benefits without recourse to the people from where these benefits are made derivable cannot in itself, guarantee stable government and good governance in this country.

RECENT EVENTS AT THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT ABUJA ON ACCOUNT OF THE DECEMBER, 2011 BONGA OIL SPILL

There is yet another disturbing posture already taken by the Federal Government in relation to the December, 2011 Bonga oil spill, which affected majority of our coastal communities with far-reaching environmental and ecological consequences. There are media reports that, the Federal government has taken the “Dutch oil giant” (SPDC) to Court, “Claiming 1.3 Trillion naira” as compensation on behalf of the coastal communities, including the Ogulagha kingdom communities “over the 2011 Bonga oil spill”. The Federal Government took this step, without recourse to the people in the first place. The people are however aware that, the Federal Government is in partnership with the “Dutch oil giant” (SPDC), holding majority of the shares in the partnership deal as joint-venture-partners in the oil business in this country.

The lands, farm-settlements, ponds and the occupational fishing rights of the people and the houses so affected by the “Bonga oil spill” are items owned privately by the people and not the Federal or the State Government, as the case may be. The Federal Government and the “Dutch” oil giant (SPDC) are all possible Defendants in the suit said to have been instituted by the Federal Government at the Federal High Court. This is so because, the parties before the Federal High Court, disputing the claims arising from the “Bonga Oil Spill of 2011”, are both Equity-share-holders in the oil business, with the Federal Government holding majority of the shares.

The suit, now pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja as widely reported in the print media cannot be a safe-heaven for our people. Steps are being taking by the people themselves to adequately protect their communities in the said suit at the appropriate time. This is so because, no government either at the local, state or National level can pretend to represent the peoples’ “communal-interest” in matters of this nature. The communities’ whose interest were adversely affected must speak- out and this, the people have done. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), pending before both Houses at the National Assembly is currently being politicized by the Federal Government and some legislators, who are averse to progressive “Legislative Instruments” that are future looking in this country. This is one excellent Bill proposed by its proponents, designed and intended to positively affect the oil-bearing communities in terms of direct Revenue allocation from the Federation Account to oil-bearing communities. The Federal Government must be seen to be more interested in sponsoring Executive Bills that would enhance the living conditions of the people and the oil-bearing communities than seek to protect their interest in law suits, shroud in complete secrecy and under suspicious circumstances.
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CONCLUSION:-

The Federal Government under the leadership of President-Muhammadu Buhari is currently loosing the desired confidences of our people and this must be addressed urgently. The Government must tread with caution.  We condemn in very strong terms, the un-announced public-private visit of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to our land on 15/04/2016 in search for further oil wealth. The general public, should be well informed of the animosity this rather unfortunate visit of the Vice-President to the community has created. The memories of this contemptuous visit of the Vice-President will continue to reverberate in the minds of our people. Our people shall continue to use this contemptuous visit of Mr. Vice-President as the basis to define their relationship with the present government until the Federal Government and the Dutch oil giant (SPDC) do what is right and appropriate under the prevailing circumstances. The government must painstakingly take the needed steps to address all the issues raised in this open letter to Mr. President in line with the “change mantra” of this Administration as a matter of National concern.

We shall continue to conduct ourselves properly within the confines of the law and do our bid as responsible citizens of this great Nation by constantly up-holding the rule of law and equity at all times.  We consider the rule of law as the only veritable tool needed to effect the change we all clamour for. On our part as leaders, we shall continue to call for the renewal of hope and faith of our people in the government of the day notwithstanding, the bitter-pills constantly forced down the throats of our people by governments at all levels.

We look forward to the change!!

Long live, Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
Long live, Delta State!
Long live, Burutu Local Government Council!
Long live Ogulagha kingdom!
Long live, Ogulagha Community!

Thank you.

Yours Faithfully,

Signed: For and on behalf of the people of Ogulagha Community;

• Capt. Solomon Prebor
[Chairman, Ogulagha Community]

• Hon. Bernard Okoh
[Assist. Secretary-General, Ogulagha Community]

• Henry .A. Agediga
Public Relations Secretary (IPRS)
Ogulagha, Ogulagha Community.