Communities in the Niger Delta have insisted that international oil companies (IOCs) must relocate their headquarters to the region given the magnitude of their projects and the environmental challenges their operations pose to the people.
The leaders of the communities, who spoke to The Guardian on Monday, maintained that it was only fair and logical that the oil majors relocate their headquarters to areas where they have significant business presence.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while acting for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017, had directed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, “to engage” the oil firms “on the way forward” amid repeated calls in that respect.
The directive followed a response to the requests made by various interest groups in Akwa Ibom State during a town hall meeting where he assured the people 0that the Federal Government was proposing a new vision for the oil-producing communities.
Most of the IOCs have their headquarters in Lagos, a distance of hundreds of kilometers from the oil-rich region.
The people have long complained that while oil exploration activities had polluted their environment, the multinationals were paying taxes and other benefits to another state.
A member of the 2009 Technical Committee on Niger Delta and Eket community leader, Chief Nduesi Essien, said it was unfair for the firms to operate outside the oil-producing settlements.
The spokesperson for the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, declared that the relocation call was one of the group’s 16-point agenda.
Another community leader in Apoi, Bayelsa State, Chief Godspower Kamela, recalled that the IOCs initially maintained good contacts with heads of villages and settlements, but relented after a while, even after promising they were going to work with the communities.
He said: “But as time went on, the IOCs began to distant themselves from us.
This aggravated to the point that they don’t feel comfortable establishing their head offices in our communities.