ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State has condemned what he termed “unfair collusion” of oil firms and regulatory bodies against the interest of host communities in the Niger Delta.
Diri expressed the displeasure when the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, paid him a courtesy visit in Government House, Yenagoa, a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, said on Tuesday.
He said that part of the security challenges in host communities were as a result of the injustice and unfair treatment by the oil companies aided by the regulatory authorities.
Diri cited last November month-long oil and gas spillage in Nembe area of the state from an Aiteo Exploration and Production Limited facility, which eventually resulted in litigation due to the manner the company and the regulatory bodies allegedly treated the impacted communities.
He said the disposition of his government towards the affected host communities prevented another flashpoint of conflict between them, AITEO and, by extension, the security agencies.
Diri said: “For us as a government, from the moment we assumed office, we have always preached peace and security and looking for constitutional, legal and legitimate ways of addressing the injustices over the years in our state.
“A case in point was the AITEO oil spill. That facility was said to be unproductive, was not decommissioned and it spewed oil for over a month, which was the first of its kind in the history of oil exploration in this country.
“At the end of the day, a potential source of conflict was during the joint inspection visit, which has caused a rift between the state government, AITEO and, to an extent, the supervisors from the oil and gas sector.
“However, because of our disposition, we have been able to calm down our communities. Now it is the state government with the local government on one side, and of course AITEO and the supervising oil and gas bodies on the other side, which I feel should not be if we do what is right, and if there is equity and fairness.
“For the fact that the environment has been affected as well as the source of livelihood of the people, it is very human for the oil companies to have immediately responded by way of compensation. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that there is some collaboration and collusion with AITEO and the regulatory agencies and we were forced to take legal action against AITEO.“
Diri called for synergy between the state and the military and recalled that it was the focus when the Chief of Defence Staff invited governors to Abuja to discuss how to ensure uninterrupted oil and gas production in the Niger Delta when he was newly appointed.
He stressed that his administration was open to collaborate, synergise and strengthen the existing relationship between the state and the security agencies.
Earlier, Gen. Irabor had said he and his team were in Bayelsa because they recognised the crucial role of the state government in accommodating and strengthening the operations of the country’s armed forces.
He added that the visit was also to solidify the partnership between both parties, particularly in combating oil theft, kidnapping and the destruction of oil facilities across the state.
The Defence Chief noted that any form of destruction of the nation’s oil investment was a direct attack on the future of the country’s oil wealth and thanked Diri for his unrelenting support to the military and other security agencies.