Crude oil Theft and Illegal bunkering can be eradicated if the Rightful Approach is Implemented, Says Amagbein
A Personality Interview With ex-general Endurance Amagbein.
1.May we meet you “general”, brief introduction of your self sir.
Amagbein : My name is General Endurance Amagbein, Adaka Boro the second. An house hold name to the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large. I have being a Niger Delta agitator for over 24 years in the creeks of the Niger Delta which is a long period of time, I have traversed the entire Niger Dellta in the name of agitating and struggling for the betterment of life and development of the people of the Niger Delta and it’s region.
You know I am among those that got involved in the Niger Delta armed struggle at a tender age, being in the struggle for over 24 years from a barrack boy to the rank of a commander under the leadership of other Generals which made me have vast experience in the Niger Delta and today I am a general with my followers cutting across the entire Niger Delta area.
I am one person that is still pained for the underdevelopment experience in the Niger Delta after accepting the Amnesty program with all the promises that were made during the amnesty programme and 14 years after we are still where we are.
As an individual, I am very worried.
I know as an agitator we were expecting that at this point in time the Niger Delta would have been the Niger Delta of our dream but that did not come to play. That is why some of us are still within the creeks to see how the needed development, employment and empowerment can come to the people of the Niger Delta.
2. Do you think illegal bunkering and crude oil theft can be stopped in Nigeria, if yes could you suggest ways Illegal Bunkering and crude oil can be reduced to it’s bearest minimum or completed eradicated in the Niger Delta?
Amagbein : Thank you very much, you know the Niger Delta is the oil and gas epicentre of Nigeria. In the Nigeria system that we are operating today in the oil and gas industry, it is the federal government that control virtually everything and the landlords which are the rightful owners of the oil rich area are completely sidelined and they feel marginalized by the IOCs and the Federal Government overtime. The people of the Niger Delta do not feel sense of belonging in the oil and gas industry operating in the region is one the reason why some of us find ourselves in this arms struggle. However, the major oil theft taking place is a corporate theft being carried out by those from NNPC and the politicians because the vessels of crude oil that they take from Nigeria to the off OPEC market is more than what the people of the Niger Delta are taking in the name of illegal bunkering
Although, after the Amnesty we were believing that development will come to the people and living standard of our people will improve, but that did not happen and the people drastically keyed into bunkering and oil theft in the Niger Delta as means of survival.
Some persons used the wealth they got from the illegal bunkering to empower themselves.
I am not an exception, I also find myself in the illegal bunkering activities but more of my resources went into community development, human development, youth empowerment and other community related services.
As an individual I was believing that keying into illegal bunkering will solve the entire Niger Delta problem, but I have come to realize that, that is not the answer and solution to the problems facing the people of the Niger Delta.
That is why I have come to agreement with people of thought and wisdom that illegal bunkering should come to an end. With zero oil theft, revenue generation will increase and if the revenue is put into use in the right channels, it is getting to the people, and it is used for development of the Niger Delta region, I think the people of the Niger Delta will protect these oil and gas facilities with their life. As we speak, oil theft and illegal bunkering have caused more damage and disaster in terms of enviromental pollution in the Niger Delta than what we thought would be the benefits from the illegal bunkering. That is why I have come to agreement and many others that we have to eradicate oil theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta region in order for the Federal and State Governments, host communities to have revenues that can be used for the development, empowerment of our Niger Delta region and Nigeria at large. Today pipelines surveillance contracts are being awarded to individuals by IOCs and even NNPC, it is advisable that they engage the rightful people that are granded with happenings in their various areas in other to have effective results. Let them not play politics with such contracts because the outcome has a lot to do with revenue generation and development and as well youth empowerment. Because overtime some of this contracts have been having political undertones and the needed results not achieved. Some of us have been fighting against illegal bunkering with our personal resources when we realized the negative impact this illegal bunkering is having on our people and the environment. If you come to my area you can attest that illegal bunkering to an extent a thing of the past as a result of the effort am putting to achieved a good result. Although there is pressure everywhere but my resolved have made it impossible and today my area is becoming free from illegal bunkering. Hence, the locals from the oil communities should be engaged in the form of pipelines surveillance contracts and should be awarded to individuals from the area as focal person and by doing that, the needed results will be achieved.
3.Tell us what the people of the Niger Delta stand to benefit if Oil Theft and Illegal bunkering is eradicated in the region?
Amagbein: you know, oil theft as everybody knows in Nigeria to an extent is an organized crime. What the people of the Niger Delta are doing that is the illegal bunkering and all the rest is less than 1% of what those in position of trust are taking particularly those in NNPC, what they are taking from the Niger Delta and from the Federal Government in the name of off OPEC racketing is huge.
Why am I saying so, there is a market called off OPEC Market where those in NNPC and the Oil Companies, the main players take our crude and sell in the off OPEC Market. That means they are not given account of those particular products. These are the real oil thieves.
Nigeria as a country that hardly enforce regulatory laws in the oil industry has given room for defaulting industry players in the oil and gas industry to go scot-free.
I am not in a position to fight them but it is good that we tell the people that is why we don’t want the little that our people are taking to be used as reference point, that the because the people of the Niger Delta are into illegal bunkering and oil theft that is why the production rate is reducing. This is all falsehood that is why you see that I am coming out to take the bull by the horn to single handedly see that oil theft, illegal bunkering come to an end in the Niger Delta.
Well what I understand and believe is that the money, the fund, the resources being taken from the Niger Delta if the funds are properly put into use for the needed development and the desired friendly, comfortable environment and living standard will be achieved. Not withstanding, if oil theft and illegal bunkering comes to an end, I believe that the Modular Refinery that the Federal Government has promised the people of the Niger Delta can be fast tracked and that will lead to employment, improvement in economic activities and at the same time increase the living standard of the people of the Niger Delta. And if the production level increases definitely it will lead to revenue increase which will make more money available for the national coffers for distribution and invariably states will receive more money to execute developmental projects
Thirdly, I believe as an individual that the PIA Act has made provision for funds for the host communities which will contribute to the development of our communities in the region.
And I believe that if oil theft is eradicated, crude oil production is bound to shore up and as Niger Deltans, we can ask for upward review of the derivation percent to states and host communities from the paltry 3% to 10 to 20% which will lead to further development.
And definitely the refineries in question that are supposed to be working in the Niger Delta with high resources and revenue, definitely the Federal Government will have resources that will be injected into the refineries to work optimally. And I believe that is what every body want.
4. What is your opinion of the laws regulating the Oil Industry in Nigeria particularly the marginalization of the people of the oil bearing communities?
Amagbein : What the people of the Niger Delta and we that have been in the arms struggle are asking for is our fair share, rightful treatment from the Federal Government and the IOCs. We want the regulatory agencies to take charge by enforcing international best practices in the oil and gas sector.
Gas flaring has caused the people of the Niger Delta a lot but as we speak the Niger Delta is more or less a pollution haven where anybody will come pollute the environment and go scot-free. Today farmlands in the Niger Delta are no longer arable. The people are drinking from acidic water because of oil pollution and gas leaks from the pipelines.
Today because of gas faring, the rain that is falling contains acid which is causing health related problems to our people. Not withstanding, it is because the regulatory agencies like DPR has not upped the game. The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has not really enacted laws and even the existing laws are not enforced to make the IOCs comply in line with international best practices to protect the enviroment.
It our call that the 10th National Assembly look into the DPR Act and carry out reforms and strengthen the regulatory agencies to effectively enforce the existing laws in the oil and gas sector for the benefit of the people..
It very clear in line with international best practices that it is the responsibility of the IOCs operating in any territory to protect their facilities and pay compensation in the event of pollution to the environment caused by raptured pipes. It is not the responsibility of the locals to to protect pipelines but that is not happening. They just lay their pipes in the Niger Delta and those that does not understand the implications of bursting pipelines will go and burst pipelines and damage our entire environment, the river, swamp, even the mangrove.
As I speak, the environment is in distress.
What we are saying is that the National Assembly as a matter of urgency, especially this 10th Assembly should look into the laws that are guiding the oil and gas sector, the regulatory bodies, empower them to be completely independent so that they can be able to enforce the laws that will bring immediate change and development to the people of the Niger Delta.
5.Your advise to Federal Government to ensure that Modular Refineries completed by some State Governments and the Dangote Multi-billion dollar Refinery yet to start production are running and functioning to address petroleum product
Amagbein :Thank you very much. Ehn, you know, the refineries and everything before this time you know, the sector, subsidy that was in quetion has not been removed. It was the Federal Government that was regulating and subsidizing price of petroleum products. Now that subsidy has been removed and I believe that all the refineries will definitely will become functional.
And I also understand that getting the crude to refine is given sone of them challenges because the locations where some of the refineries are sited are not actually oil producing areas. So to get the pipeline that will supply crude oil for refinning are some of challenges..
The one our brother, Azikel is building here in Bayelsa State, I believe he need the support of the Federal and State Government partnership.
He is an individual and when it come to building a Modular Refinery, it is capital intensive. He has the foresight, he really want to bring it on stream but the willingness of the State and Federal Government to partner with him to bring the project to limelight is crucial which when completed will creates employment opportunities for our teeming youths and also lead to economic boomboom.
I want the state government as a matter of urgency look into it and take priority.
Well lets see, when the people on board does not have the willingness to see that such projects come to limelight, it becomes worrisome.
That of Dangote, I believe that the crude line where it is placed is very far from the Niger Delta. That the crude the refinery is going to use is why it is having those little little hicups.
You know, when those pipes are constructed to those places, it will become functional. I don’t know or think that there is any security threat to their activities. Definitely we are looking up such things that is why we are still calling on the Federal Government to grant the people of Niger Delta more licence, especially Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers States and the Arigbo part of Ondo State where there are alot of pipelines, the are major producers of oil and gas, so that the people will be taken off the street and that will give them the audacity to protect the critical national assets because it will put food on their tables.
6. Petroleum Subsidy removal by President Ahmed Bola Tinubu has brought untold hardship to Nigerians. What measures do you think Federal Government can adopt to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerian and end the importation of petroleum products.
Amagbein :Ehn, I have advised Nigerians before this time on subsidy related matter, that they should give Mr. President some time because he has good plans, intentions for Nigerians. This subsidy removal issue is an issue that has been long overdue. You know in 2012 or there about when then President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to end this same subsidy regime, Nigerians protested including the present President.
At that time the money used for subsidy was less but today subsidy is consuming trillions of nairas.
I know that those who protested against Jonathan’s move at that time were purely on political reasons.
That is what we are suffering today but Mr. President has taken the bull by the horn to removed the hydra-headed monster called petroleum subsidy. Let us support him and definitely I am certain that the long time benefits of subsidy removal will overweigh the short term pains because the sector has been fully deregulated which will bring in independent players.
This means that we are going to have more private refineries that will definitely create employment opportunities for the unemployed and product availability will be enhanced which will return the country to the golden era of the country once again export petroleum products.
What we need is economic independence and in order for us to get economic independence, we have to be more productive and take the economy on the part of industralization in our day to activities. So I believe that Nigerians will give President Tinubu the opportunity and some time to set things right and impact positively on the lives of the people.
7. In your opinion what do you think former Leaders of the country did not do right that led to the comatose state of the refineries?
Amagbein : If you ask me, this kind of question I don’t know where to start from. You know in Nigeria we always believe in mismanaging things that will benefit the general public
Nigeria is one country that if we want to go to alternative energy source we can get it. But today infact 70% to 80% to have 12hours light in Nigeria is a problem.
This is one country that is so blessed that if we want to zone it, every zone will be having different source of energy to be generating electricity for them but that is not done because there are some players who feel that if electricity is stabilized , there source of income will be cut off. They are bribing those in government not to let the sectors work and functional.
The same thing is happening to the refineries which I consider as deliberate sabotage.
Some highly placed government officials and others closed to the corridors of power are just sitting in their houses and cashing billions of nairas into their accounts. So they prefer to bribe those working at the refineries and ensure that the refineries are grounded continuously for them to import petroleum products.
The sabotage is from the main players in the oil and gas sector particularly those saddled with the responsibility to manage the refineries.
8.What is your take on the appointment of sons and daughters of the Niger Delta by President Ahmed Bola Tinubu in his Renewed Hope Agenda Administration?
Amagbein :Thank you for that question. You know that every government and administration that comes on board have its template, how he intends to go about with his appointment. Apart from the Ministerial Appointments which are statutory, we have not seen any Niger Delta son that has been given sensitive appointment or position.
The NDDC as you know is a statutory appointment that definitely must be given to sons and daughters of the region.
I mean Executive appointments. I am not talking about political aides appointments. When we talk about appointments, there are Federal parastatals, agencies like NPA, NIMASA that will create room for the appointee to make great inputs. You know , the Niger Delta is a maritime domain and cover a larger trunk of the Marine Territory. Activities happens, more so we are calling on President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to look for qualified sons and daughters of the Niger Delta, especially from Ijaw extraction to be given appointments like NPA, NIMASA, PTDF. No Ijaw person have ever headed PTDF or Tetfund. These are sensitive agencies.
If sons and daughters of Niger Delta are given the opportunity to man the above mentioned agencies it will contribute massively to eradicate poverty and promote inclusive governance in the region.
As a General that have been in the struggle, I am calling on Mr. President to appoint more sons and daughters to positions of trust and give our people a sense of belonging.
We promised to maintain the existing peace in the region and support Mr. President succeed in his administration.
9, Governors, National and State Lawmakers, Political Appointees from the region have been accused of not doing enough to touch lives. What is your call to political leaders to develop the region?
Amagbein : Thank you very much for that question. You know, Niger Delta people in as much as you understand and overtime have placed politics above development of the region and there various States. Lawmakers that ought to be standing firm for the region in terms of lawmaking have decided not to speak on issues that have to do with the Niger people. Look at the PIA Act, the Hoscom fund ought to be 10%, the upper and the Lower Chambers agreed to 5% but at the end of the day, it was 3% that was passed. That was a time when we had our own brother as Minister of Petroleum who was very influential but the interest of the IOCs was the interest that was protected against the people of the Niger Delta.
That is what is playing out even at the state level. Money meant for development are carted away. At the end of the day it is EFCC that will go and harvest all of them and enjoy it.
It is very very painful. Look at the NDDC, it has become a political arena where the ruling party at the centre direct them and used the funds meant for development just for political related activities instead of focusing on the key objectives why the commission was established.
That is why you see that day in day out we are backward, we are retrogressing in terms of development, manpower, and industrialization. That is where we found ourselves and those are some the things that pans us.
That is why as an individual, I don’t blame those from the North, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo for our our ehn predicament and underdevelopment. It is a self inflicted problem and until we look inward, we can never get it right. That is how it is. So it is sad. My appeal to our leaders is for them to use resources no matter how little for the benefit of all. That is why we are fighting for upward review of this same resources. Like the 13% derivation is long overdue for review to at least 50%.
That is the only way the people in the region will understand that we are stakeholders of the oil and gas activities that are happening in the region so that we can protect the facilities with all our blood for the benefit of all. But when you take our own and give us paltry 13% in the name of derivation, while people are harvesting gold in the North and they are taking all home, and you want us to keep quiet?.We even heard that the the current Vice President have a very big mining site in his State They come to the Niger Delta drill all the oil, make a funny map ehn survey plan and come and tell us that it is one man from the North that own it. It is very very appalling. What we want is one Nigeria, Niger Delta that is development oriented, peaceful, business friendly. So we are calling on our leaders especially those from the to focus more on development of the region that politics and our people are going to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
10. As a General in the struggle for over two decades and also a philanthropist that have use resources at your disposal to touch lives positively, your advice to Bayelsa voters to elect the right leader among the candidates vying for the Governorship of the State?
Amagbein : Thank you once again. You know, I am not a politician and not a party person. I am just the people’s General and what we want as a people in Bayelsa State is progressive and a state that is prosperous. Bayelsa St ate that other State will envy . As a General, I have said it before and will keep saying it again. It is only when political season come like this that you see all the political gladiators running helter skelter, trying to brainwash and see how they can buy votes for their own personal political gain.
At this juncture, I am calling on all Bayelsans to be law abiding, be peaceful and should not allow politicians to use them as. political thugs or as tools to cause crisis.
They should be mindful, let them engage politicians based on their manifestos and see those that have genuine interest of the development and growth of the state and make their choice.
Every person that is contesting the election are Bayelsans . So I don’t have any preferred candidate or k will not say that my followers should support a particular candidate or party because I am not a party man. That has always been my stand. My advice is to Bayelsans to that we into the manifestos of the various Governorship Candidates and take the one they believe that will bring peace, security, development, youth empowerment, human capital development and signature infrastructural development to our uban communities. That is all I have to say and nothing more
My final advice is let the political players play by the rules and not to use hate speech that will cause unrest and crises. And they should not use politics to cause community crises. Let us be focused, be steadfast, let us campaign based on the manifestos that will convince the people and get their votes to govern the people that they want to lead.
That is all I have to say.Thank you and God bless you.