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President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that henceforth, the activities of vandals and saboteurs blowing up oil and gas installations will get the same reaction from his government as that being taken against Boko Haram insurgents by the Armed Forces.
Speaking at a meeting with members of the Nigerian community resident in China, as part of his tour to the country, Buhari reaffirmed his commitment to winning the war against corruption, saying that the menace was an arch-enemy of the nation which has destroyed the lives of many Nigerians.
Besides, there are indications that the nation’s oil and gas sector may face yet another threat in the restive Niger Delta region, as some Ijaw communities have reportedly declared a multinational company, Saipem Consortium, persona non grata in their areas.
Addressing Nigerians he met in China, Buhari said:”I ask for your support to make our vision of stamping out corruption a reality in the shortest possible time. Whoever is caught will not be spared. The government is still being dared, but those who are sensible should have learnt a lesson. Those who are mad, let them continue in their madness.
“I am aware that in the last two weeks, the national grid collapsed a number of times. I hope this message will reach the vandals and saboteurs who are blowing up pipelines and installations.
“We will deal with them the way we dealt with Boko Haram,” the president declared, assuring the Nigerian community that the Federal Government was working very hard to overcome national challenges and deliver on its promise of a better Nigeria.
“Clearly, our vision of a diversified and inclusive economy will not be achieved overnight. It will be a long, and in some cases, painful journey. I am very confident we will get there. But we must start that journey now.
“We hear proposals for short cuts or quick wins. However, all we need to do is look at our history to know that there are no quick wins or short cuts in fixing Nigeria. The many decades of damage and destruction cannot be repaired overnight.
“The reform programme we are implementing is not because oil prices are below $45 per barrel today. It is because when oil prices were over $100 per barrel, the majority of Nigerians were still suffering.
“They were simply forgotten and left behind. So, our reforms are to ensure that the majority of Nigerians are not left behind,” the president told them.
Buhari also assured the Nigerian community that his administration was fulfilling its promise to improve security across the country, stressing, “When we came into office in 2015, Boko Haram insurgents occupied 14 Local Government Areas. Today, I am pleased to say the insurgents have been routed out of these local governments and their capacity to fight as a force has been significantly degraded.
“We will continue working hard to ensure that the group is eliminated. This is achievable. And we will not settle for anything less,” he said.
Specifically, Saipem, an Italian oil contracting firm, is currently handling three gas plant projects technically referred to as SSAGS+, on behalf of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Ijaw communities hosting the Beniseide, Tunu and Ogbotobo Flow Stations.
However, the communities have reportedly asked the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, to stop contracting Saipem to handle its oil and gas projects within their areas.
They have also requested that Saipem be withdrawn from further executing the ongoing projects in the three flow stations.
Spokesman of the communities, Pere-ebibo Cinema Fufeyin, a lawyer yesterday said, that youths of the various communities were already mobilising to storm the Embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy in Abuja, for a peaceful protest against the continued presence of Saipem in their areas.
He told reporters in Abuja that the communities took the decision because of various alleged contractual illegalities and fraudulent practices allegedly perpetrated by the Saipem Consortium in its dealings with them.
He said despite several complaints by the communities over the flagrant subversion of agreements guiding its operations in their area including Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) and Freedom to Operate (FTOs), Saipem had allegedly continued to front one Kenneth Oboku, to corner all the sub-contracts meant for host communities.
“Prior to the commencement of the project, an agreement was reached, officially documented and signed by representatives of the various communities, SPDC and Saipem Consortium.
“The agreement specifically outlined the community/contractor’s commitments to enable the smooth implementation of the projects.
“While the communities in the mutual agreements, averred their commitment to assist SPDC in removing all structures on SPDC’s acquired land around the flow stations to allow for unimpeded construction work by Saipem Consortium, a commitment it has since fulfilled, SPDC/Saipem as part of the contractor’s responsibilities, agreed and expressed commitment to ensuring that sub-contracting opportunities for the supply of materials and the provision of services as required by the SPDC contractors for the project activities, will be awarded only to qualified indigenous contractors.
“Apart from drawing a list of 10 sub-contract opportunities to be mandatorily preserved as indigenous lots, it was also emphasised as part of the contractor’s commitments, that qualified community contractors registered with Saipem Consortium Nigeria Limited (SCNL), will also be allowed to tender via competitive bids with other non-community contractors for services and supplies not stated on the exclusive indigenous list as may be required in the course of executing the project, and that the contractor shall solicit the supply of equipment from the communities in all cases where such equipment are not consortium-owned.”
Fufeyin explained that these were among other commitments made in tandem with statutory local content regulatory provisions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to which the contractor committed itself to sourcing 100per cent and 60 per cent of unskilled and semi-skilled workers respectively, and as well liaising with the leaders of the communities to source some skilled workers in the project area.
He said: “While we had no doubt that a diligent, transparent and holistic implementation of these commitments would have provided the required peaceful environment for execution of the project, officials of Saipem Consortium mobilised to the various sites with a sinister grand design to criminally corner the opportunities, including human, material and financial, accruable to the communities.
“Instead of awarding sub-contracts reserved for members of the host community as earlier agreed and endorsed by SPDC/Saipem Consortium and the communities, these exclusive sub-contracts are all awarded to the contractor’s front, who then hands miserable sums of money upon being paid, to a few induced members of the communities.”
Stressing that the communities are unwavering in their resolve to halt the operations of Saipem in their communities, Fufeyin said: “If Shell fails to heed the communities’ request to withdraw Saipem and stop contracting further projects to it in our area, then we shall assume that SPDC no longer desires to undertake its projects at the three flow stations.”