Ex-militant leaders in Bayelsa and the state governor, Seriake Dickson, are currently at daggers drawn over juicy oil pipeline surveillance contracts in the state.
The ex-militants had embarked on a protest on Friday to resist moves by the state government to hijack the contracts meant for residents of oil communities. The contracts are usually given by the national oil company, NNPC, through its joint venture with multinational organisations.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the protest which allegedly led to the death of one person while eight people were injured in a violent clash with the security officials sent to disperse the protesters.
The police spokesperson, Asinim Butswat, however denied that the police was responsible for the death of the lone victim. He said the police merely used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Speaking for the ex-militants during the protest on Friday, Paul Eris, known as Ogun Boss, said that the meddlesomeness of the government in the surveillance job was unacceptable.
He advised the state government to restrict itself to use of the oil revenue from the federation account, Internally Generated Revenue and sundry sources and hands off the contract meant for indigenes of oil bearing communities.
However, the government in a statement issued on Sunday by Mr. Dickson’s spokesperson, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the state government planned to ensure that youth from all parts of the state and not just indigenes of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, where most of the militants hail from, benefit from the contracts.
“Sadly, these ex-militants, who have mismanaged the Amnesty programme to short change their followers, are again planning to use the innocent youth to play out the script of their sponsors to malign the state government and destabilize the state for their selfish financial interest,” he said.
“In addition to the Amnesty programme, which they control exclusively, these ex-militant leaders also have a share of the pipeline surveillance contract, but they are fighting to be the only ones to carry out this function throughout the state. They have no capacity to do this and it doesn’t make sense because there are so many youth and chiefs in the state that can also be involved in their communities for accountability.
“The position of the government is that, pipeline surveillance contracts are not for ex-militant leaders alone, most of whom hail from a particular local government area. The state-owned security company is for all persons in the state and will ensure that they are made to carry out their duties effectively. There are youths from other local government areas that must benefit from these contracts and not just Bajeros whose promoters are only from Southern Ijaw local government area.”
The militants had accused the state government of starving all segments of the state of funds and running the administration as a private estate while using the dwindling oil revenue as a ready excuse.
They accused the governor of mismanaging the 13 per cent oil derivation funds meant to develop the oil producing areas in the state and said he had no moral rights to accuse the ex-militants of the same offence he is guilty of.
An ex-militant leader, James Ebi, said that the reasons advanced by the government for its actions on the surveillance contract was very shallow.
“The plight of the minorities is always regrettable,” he said. “The fight for 13 per cent derivation was meant to bring justice to the Niger Delta region, but sadly even the proponents of the struggle never benefited from it.
“The present crop of governors in the (Niger Delta) region are mere opportunists who seized the funds and used it for white elephant fancy projects that never has any connection with the oil bearing communities.
“The oil communities are still totally ignored and it is sad that the government will come and say that a contract meant for oil producing communities has become an all comer’s affairs.”
Perekemi Doubra, an indigene of Oporomain Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, noted that it was inconsiderate and insensitive of the government to say that the pipeline surveillance was now for everyone.
“It is very provocative,” he said. “We shall never accept this kind of injustice, look at the quantum of money that accrues to Bayelsa for being an oil producing state and Dickson appropriates it as he wills and tells everyone that cares to listen that there is no money.
“Yet his kinsmen live in affluence while the governor starves the entire state of funds, and now the surveillance job meant to benefit the oil communities is what he wants to take also. It is unjust.”
Joe Boro, an ex-militant who accepted the presidential amnesty programe, noted that the reasons advanced by the government were not convincing. According to him, those who were documented for the amnesty programme were getting their allowances directly.
“The state government is just being clever by half,” he said. “How can they say that the ex-militant leaders mismanaged the amnesty programme? The amnesty scheme is a great success and it is for those who voluntarily accepted.
“So it is laughable that Dickson has descended this low, haven captured the wealth of the entire state he still wants to take away the little that is to come to the communities directly?”