Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday raised the alarm that in no distant future, the country would be in grave danger if it continues to rely on oil as its major source of revenue generation.
The sad reality that crude oil will soon become useless is staring Nigeria in the face and as such, “we must be smart and act intelligently and fast,” he said.
The vice president gave the warning when he visited Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta State as part of his peace mission to the Niger Delta region, in furtherance of the federal government’s quest for lasting solutions to the challenges in the region.
Last year witnessed a resurgence of the devastating activities of the Niger Delta militants who almost crippled oil production in the region.
Speaking in Gbaramatu kingdom yesterday, Osinbajo regretted that fire incidents from pipeline vandalisation had claimed the lives of thousands of persons between January and June 2016, during which the country recorded over 1,447 incidents of vandalisation.
Speaking to a large crowd after meeting behind closed doors with leaders of Gbaramatu at the palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom, Oboro Gbaraun II Aketekpe, the vice president asked the people of the region to recognise the fact that the future is full of challenges for the oil industry.
He said, “In another 20 to 30 years, our oil won’t be as precious as it is today and that is reality? America has stopped buying oil from us. All the countries of Asia that buy oil from us are building alternative means of power, China and Japan are developing electric cars. In fact, Japan has more charging stations than petrol stations. Solar power is getting cheaper.
“The Niger Delta of today is one where aside environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents arising from breaching of the pipelines.
“To prepare for a great future for the Gbaramatu kingdom, three things must happen: we must recognise the unique environmental challenges the Niger Delta is facing, we must also recognise that the Niger Delta is a special economic zone for this nation so we must treat it as a special development zone”.
This, he added, entails that the federal and state governments as well as the National Assembly, NDDC and civil societies representing Niger Delta must come together on a round table and map out a strategy for rapid development.
“There is no excuse for not planning together. The federal government cannot solve the problem of Niger Delta. It is impossible for the FG to do it alone. The state should devote substantial portion of its budget to this special project”, the vice president quipped.
He further observed that the critical areas the federal government was bothered about was infrastructure, even as he hinted that “in the 2017 budget, we have provided for the commencement of the Lagos – Calabar rail way which will go through Delta.”
He continued: “We are working with the Chinese on this project. When I leave here we will visit the site of the Maritime University. The president has directed the ministry of petroleum to work quick to see to the realisation of all of the objectives of implementing this crucial educational institution.
“Establishing this university has passed the second reading in the National Assembly and I know we have the commitment of the members of the national assembly to fast track this bill so that the maritime school will be completed as soon as possible”.
Osinbajo explained that the maritime university which is expected to start fully in September this year and other government projects cannot become functional without enough revenue which is being frustrated by militants and pipeline vandals.
“If there is no revenue, we are deceiving ourselves. There must be revenue and it can only come when there is peace. There should be commitment to peace,” he stated.
According to him, already, the PAN Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had submitted a detailed list of 16 issues for dialogue that would help in ascertaining key development priorities, noting that “it is an important working document that represents an excellent road map to the future of Niger Delta.”
On the cleanup of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, Osinbajo said, “For the cleanup not be a waste of money, we must enforce strict environmental standard for the oil producing companies. And all our communities must prevent vandalisation which is also a major source of environmental degradation”.
The vice president who also addressed stakeholders at the conference hall of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, observed that it was unfortunate that despite the huge contribution of the Niger Delta to the development of the country, there was little to show for such.
“No Nigerian can be proud with the state of development in the Niger Delta; we are all beneficiaries from resources from the region but, we cannot have instability and be able to carry out speedy development of the region,” he said.
Osinbajo reiterated that President Mohammadu Buhari was committed to the development of the region, saying, “the issues at stake are very clear, this is not time for negotiation, it is time to act and we know the issues, we must all prepare for a future that will not be dependent in oil resources.
“The Lagos-Calabar railway project is in the 2017 budget and when completed, it will benefit all the people of the Niger Delta, the Maritime University will come on stream, I can assure you that it is a done deal, we must do it; Ports are revenue generating, so plans are on to develop them but, the issue is how do we fund the projects?” the Vice President continued, reiterating, “the President is an honest man and my coming here for this programme is clear evidence that the Niger Delta is being carried along.”
The vice president also met with the Olu of Warri Kingdom, HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli I during the visit. He was accompanied by Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, Minister for Petroleum (State), Ibe Kachikwu and other top government functionaries on the visits.