Nigeria: COVID-19 - Legislator Writes Govt, IOCs Over Neglect of Oil-Producing Communities

1 June 2020

A member of the National Assembly, representing Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, Honourable Preye Oseke, yesterday, petitioned the Federal Government and oil and gas companies over the neglect of oil-producing communities and failure of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to provide relief for the communities during the COVID-19 period.

In the letter, Preye noted that in addition to the environmental challenges hitherto faced by host communities of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities within the context of their surrounding ecosystem, the pandemic has spelt untold sufferings particularly on the people of these communities in different forms.

He further warned that the aftermath of COVID-19 could spell doom for the people of the oil-producing communities if the nutritional needs of the people were not urgently looked into.

According to him, while billions are budgeted for just a fragment of the population that have tested positive to the virus, important as it may seem, the larger chunk, if not swiftly accorded a commensurate attention, could pose much more challenges now and in the near future.

Double standard

Preye further accused the international oil firms of double standard, noting that many of the oil companies were making significant contributions and interventions in their country of origin, but do not think it necessary to intervene in the communities from which they produce crude oil in Nigeria.

He said, "It is worth highlighting that the challenges and dangers host communities are exposed to, presently and in the future, cannot be exhaustively catalogued. This is the rationale behind the creation of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission and its counterpart of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Commission in Delta and Imo States respectively.

"What mitigating steps the said commissions have recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic is subject to debate. Worse still, majority of states are yet to replicate an agency that looks into the multifaceted challenges of host communities, thereby leaving host communities to grapple with their issues even as they remain the geese that lay the golden eggs.

"Not limited to federal, states, as well as regional governments, corporate entities, non-governmental organizations, and public-spirited individuals have not winked at the very glaring beckon on the need to intervene in bringing succour to inhabitants of host communities of oil and gas facilities that are agreeably considered the most affected in the Nigerian federation in the circumstance."

Palliatives

To this end, Preye appealed to the oil companies to, as a matter of urgent consideration, look into the purchase and distribution of food palliatives to oil-producing communities, as part of their corporate social responsibility as it will in no little way ameliorate the sufferings faced by host communities especially the vulnerable ones, due to containment measures put in place by government to halt the spread of COVID-19.

According to him, the need to complement the efforts of the federal and state governments; regional and interventionist agencies in the procurement of palliatives aimed at ameliorating the plight of the people is highly solicited therefore.

He added that this way, the lot of the people who, living mainly along coastlines and hinterlands, and as such hardly benefit from other interventions, yet locked down, could heave a sigh of relief.

He lamented that multinational oil firms had adopted the trend of concentrating their relief efforts in their country of origin, sadly, without a commensurate efforts, or anything close to it, in their areas of operation, despite the fact that what is required in the host communities would be nothing compared to what has been done in their home states.

"A case in point was ENI Group's support to everyone on the front line managing the Covid-19 public health emergency in Italy through a series of major initiatives using their wide-ranging experience gained from healthcare projects around the world.

"In doing this, the group acquired and imported, through a special airlift from China, electromedical equipment and personal protective equipment for healthcare staff across Italy, as well as sending huge quantities of critically needed surgical and advanced respirator masks to health facilities in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Le Marche, Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia.

"Similarly, Exxonmobil has provided fuel, hand sanitizers to support COVID-19 relief efforts in its home Texas. In doing this, fuel has been provided to Jefferson County and the City of Beaumont for use in first response vehicles."

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