Sunday 28th August, 2016
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OIL Pipelines vandalism: Count us out!

OIL Pipelines vandalism: Count us out!

· Niger Delta monarchs tackle military
 
Following the order di­recting traditional rul­ers in the Niger Delta to guarantee the protection of oil facilities in their domain, tradi­tional rulers in the region have described it was an attempt to undermine the indigenous rights of the Niger Delta people, and outright disrespect to tradi­tional institutions.
Renowned traditional chief in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and Chairman of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities in the state, Chief Nengi James, said royal fathers could not be cowed by such statements.
Speaking to The AUTHOR­ITY on Sunday in Yenagoa, the Nembe chief insisted that they were only the custodians of their people and culture and not licenced security men.
According to him, traditional rulers are not constitution­ally empowered to carry out such high risk responsibility and stressed that such directive coming from the military, was misdirected and void.
James further argued that he expected the military hierarchy to have since issued similar di­rective to the North Eastern tra­ditional rulers, directing them to guarantee an end to the Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of crime in their area.
He pointed out that there were clear provisions in the 1979 constitution, conferring security of the country to the military, police and other security agen­cies, wondering why they de­cided to shirk on such constitu­tional duty.
He stressed it was a misnomer directing indigenous chiefs to protect life and property, stress­ing that such was not provided for in any section of the consti­tution.
He also alleged that military officers posted to the region were only interested in making money for themselves, instead of paying attention to the duties they were primarily assigned to carry out.
According to him, “most of the criminals perpetrating acts of economic sabotage are well-known to some of the officers and it was wrong for them to shift responsibility to traditional rulers who do not have the tools or constitutional powers to carry out such specialized duties.
“The military are responsible for every security activity in the Niger Delta. But I must add that they do not respond effectively to carrying our such constitutional responsibility because of obvious pecuniary reasons on their part.
“Now, they want to hide under the guise of the recent attacks on oil facilities to begin to under­mine the traditional rulers in the Niger Delta region. This is most unfortunate and misplaced ag­gression”.
Chief James is of the opinion that the same respect that are be­ing accorded the Emirs and Obas in the North and Southwest re­spectively, should be accorded to the traditional institution in the Niger Delta region, stressing that the recent military statements fell short of expected respect for them.
Also, the paramount ruler of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdlom, Delta State stated: His Royal Majesty Couple Mackson Oro­moni, said it was wrong for the military to think of holding the monarchs responsible for pipe­line vandalism.
He said “if you visit the riv­erine areas you will observe that the federal government has spent so much to safe-guard these facilities. A distance of two poles you see houseboat and gunboats around the pipelines. Yet, we still hear of pipeline van­dalisation.
“It shocks one to ask, what are they (military) guarding? If with all these, there is vandalisation, military officers should be held responsible.
Military has been guarding the pipeline since the inception of last militancy till date and vandalisation of oil facilities still occurs.
“If the military cannot do the job, they should allow the com­munities to guard them. I believe the communities will do a better job. The officers sleep in their houseboats. They don’t patrol. If there is vandalisation , the mili­tary should be asked to explain how it happens.
“In order to create trouble, call the dog a bad name. That is the situation. We have been liv­ing in peace. The vandalisation is being caused by those they give pipeline repairs contract in conjunction with the military. How can you invade five com­munities in Gbaramatu? Are the vandals from the communities?
“You can’t hold community leaders responsible for acts of sabotage. Those who vandalise pipelines could be from the cit­ies or neighbouring states. What they should do is to mount more intelligence rather than threatening to hold communi­ties responsible.”
In his own reaction, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who is the chief mobiliser of Gbara­matu Kingdom in Delta State, insisted that the pipeline van­dals were not from his king­dom, and the military should know better than issuing threats instead of using intelli­gence gathering tactics.
His words: “I think the mili­tary knows better. These mili­tary people are they not from communities? If they enter the riverine areas, don’t they see the connection between creeks? These pipelines that are blown up, are situated outside the communities and commu­nity leaders don’t have control over them.
“How do you come and holds community leaders re­sponsible? Is that how to gov­ern a country?
 
“When the Chibok Girls were captured, they were taken from a community, this time over 300 people were taken from a community and it was the federal government that was held responsible.
 
“What are they talking, are there two laws in this country? We don’t habour criminals. We don’t have criminals in our midst. We did not send any­one to blow up oil pipelines, neither do we have any agita­tion for now that will make us instigate people to blown up pipelines.
 
“This action of the military by saying they will hold com­munity leaders responsible, is an unfortunate statement because I don’t see how com­munity leaders are involved in this.
 
“Besides, I think the best the military should do is to part­ner with community leaders who know the terrain so that we can put hands together to fight this problem. Were we given contracts to guide pipe­lines?
 
“Even though the pipeline was not given to us, we still use our connections to ensure people don’t do things unnec­essary. In this Warri, there are military presences everywhere but there are kidnappers, fight­ing.
 
“Our river is manned by military people too, if crimi­nals are passing, they have guns to stop them. Why where they unable to accost them?
 
“It is because these criminals have their mode of operation which the ordinarily person may not know, if you are not part of them. They should not come up with this kind of spu­rious statement that they will hold community leaders re­sponsible.
 
“What did the community leaders do? Do they have in­formation that community leaders were part of this thing? I think they should withdraw the statement. That statement alone sends a very wrong sig­nal. They should withdraw that statement; we are ready to partner with the military or whichever law enforcement agents that is ready to assist.”
 
Meanwhile, traditional rul­ers of oil-bearing communities in Akwa Ibom State have ad­opted several measures to pro­tect oil pipelines within their domains from oil thieves and vandals.
 
Among the measures adopt­ed by the royal fathers were the setting up of vigilante groups and the sensitization of their subjects on the need to assist government and multinational oil companies to protect crude oil facilities.
 
The move by the monarchs, which is in compliance with recent directive for traditional rulers to ensure the safety of oil facilities in their territories, has received the endorsement of youth and community lead­ers in the state in addition to attracting the state govern­ment support.
 
Akwa Ibom State contrib­utes over 40 per cent of crude oil earnings to the nation’s economy and most of these oil facilities are in Eket senatorial district of the state.
 
Traditional rulers from the area, especially the paramount ruler of Ibeno Local Gov­ernment Area, His Majesty, Effiong Achianga, told our correspondent that, “we the traditional rulers of oil pro­ducing communities of Akwa Ibom have set up vigilante groups to assist government and oil companies protect pipelines and safety for oil workers.
 
“We have also sensitized our subjects on why they shouldn’t destroy, aid or abet vandals to destroy and vandalize oil pipe­lines and I can confidently say all is well here”.

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