22 August 2018

Nigeria: Oil Majors, Tanker Owners Defy Presidential Orders

Photo: The Guardian
Traffic gridlock on Apapa Road, Lagos.

The directives by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo aimed at easing traffic congestion in the Apapa area of Lagos State and ensuring the relocation of oil companies' headquarters to the Niger Delta have not been complied with.

Some oil companies have insisted there is no need to move to the region as they already have robust operations there and are only maintaining small head offices in other parts of the country, particularly Lagos.

Others have claimed they have headquarters there and are, therefore, not affected by the mandate.

The spokesperson for Shell Nigeria, Bamidele Odugbesan, told The Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday that Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) had had its headquarters in the region (Port Harcourt), years before the directive came.

According to him, SPDC is offshore and has catchment areas in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and recently Imo and Abia States, hence the location of its head office in the Niger Delta.

But Odugbesan said the Shell Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), which is 120km offshore, off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea, has its office in Lagos.

He said: "For SNEPCo, the host community is the whole of Nigeria and not limited to the Niger Delta.

For instance, distance-wise, SNEPCo's Bonga field is closer to Lagos than it is to Port Harcourt. We must categorically state that SNEPCo is not taking a drop of oil from the Niger Delta.

"SNEPCo will maintain its logistics base where its operations are. It is only when you are operating in the Niger Delta that the issue of relocating there can stand. For SNEPCo, our social investment programmes are done across the country."

When our correspondent enquired at Total Upstream, another international oil company operating in Nigeria, there was no response as at press time.

A source at an oil company with presence in the Niger Delta, who sought anonymity, said his firm maintains a Lagos office because it would be impracticable to transact business elsewhere.

He said: "In Lagos, we have the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) and commercial cum investment banks.

These are entities we liaise with everyday. We need to remain in Lagos to achieve a seamless operation.

"A large chuck of our workforce is in the Niger Delta. Thus, we pay more company and staff income tax to the authorities there, compared to Lagos where our workforce is slim."

He asked: "What are the tangible things the government wants to achieve? We don't see any significant thing that will accrue to the government as benefit if we move our head office to the Niger Delta.

In fact, it will not change anything for the communities or the government."

The source noted that Lagos provides an easier link to the world than the Niger Delta and that basic security could not be guaranteed in the region.

"As we speak, the wives and children of most of our workers in the Niger Delta do not stay there. Who wants to stay there?" he asked.

Similarly, fuel tankers and container trucks doing business at the Apapa port and surrounding depots have returned to access roads inwards Apapa, contravening the order, which forbade indiscriminate parking.

The Guardian observed that the heavy-duty vehicles have in the last few days begun forming two lanes inwards Apapa port.

A long stretch of the haphazard parking was noticed yesterday around the Mile 2, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Festac and Ago Palace corridor.

Osinbajo, late last month, made an unscheduled visit to Apapa and directed a joint task force of security operatives to clear the area of the gridlock within 72 hours.

Many Lagos residents welcomed the order as the vehicles had forced a total traffic lockdown.

The task force was drawn from the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Others were: the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).

Container truck drivers were represented, alongside the National Association of Road Transport Owners, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN).

A resident of the Coconut area of Apapa, Yekini Adeagbo, regretted that the directive and efforts of security operatives lasted only a few days.

He said no sooner had the joint taskforce departed than the tankers and trucks returned.

"Honestly, we thought the police people (task force) would stay longer to check the excesses of these drivers.

The issue is much more serious than the State and Federal Governments are making.

"I am aware that they are building trailer parks and want to construct the bad roads but traffic rules and enforcement should be stricter and consistent.

They must not just be a one-off thing," he said.

The task force was constituted to maintain sanity within a 30-day period.

But as at last week, none of the operatives was on ground.

The plan to fix several portions of roads at a cost of N72.9 billion was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council.

As at yesterday, however, the roads remained in disrepair.

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