SOME PROMINENT indigenes of Niger Delta in Nigeria have warned Ghanaians to be very cautious about the oil companies operating in the Jubilee Field, as their actions could destabilize the nation.
“When the oil companies invite you to big hotels and offer you big envelopes, reject their offers,” Joesph Efanya, a chief of Uruma, a suburb of Niger Delta, told BUSINESS GUIDE in an interview recently during a fact-finding tour to the Niger Delta last week.
According to him, oil companies operating in Nigeria practiced what he termed ‘divide and rule tactic,’ where oil firms identified influential people in the community, paid them money and then asked them to fight their own people.
“I will not be surprised if this practice is repeated in Ghana. Oil companies know what is right but would not do it,” Chief Efanya said.
The Niger Delta has been producing oil in commercial quantities since the early1950s but is still wallowing in abject poverty.
He said for Ghana to succeed in the oil business, the leaders representing the masses should be sincere and not betray the trust of their followers. He also charged them to always have the interest of the country at heart, adding they should not allow the oil firms to buy them with money.
Adding his voice to this admonishment was another opinion leader in the Uruma community, Chief Ishmael Yacob. He said oil companies operating in the Niger Delta did over-promise yet under-delivered. He therefore asked Ghanaian authorities to ensure that the youth were trained to take up managerial positions in the emerging oil sector.
“The youth may not be as skilled as what the oil companies would want but they can be trained to acquire the skills,” he suggested.
He said oil firms were fond of employing people outside the community in which they operated, alleging that in his community, those who even qualified for the jobs were deliberately failed by the oil companies during the job interview session.
“We have over 1,000 members in this community but we do not have more than 10 people working at the managerial position in these oil companies. They impose their policies on us without involving us in anything,” Chief Yacob mentioned.
On his part, Chief Howels Idibo Ebifate of Etiema, another community in the Niger Delta, said oil companies were powerful and would do everything to prevent journalists and politicians from reporting on their ills.
“They make all the monies here and leave the community in poverty. We don’t even have potable water here even though we have abundant rivers in Niger Delta,” he lamented.
The Chief of Etiema stated: “We want the oil to remain in the ground so that it would feed our food.”
There is an alarming increase in the incidence of communal conflicts in the petroleum-bearing Niger Delta area. These conflicts, which very often manifest in full-blown wars within and between communities, have resulted in the killing of numerous community members and the destruction of whole villages and towns.
At the root of these conflicts is the oil and gas exploitation via policies of the government and the oil and gas companies. The responses of government and industry agents to community agitations and protests have been designed to silence or weaken opposition by manipulating filial ties, to create divisions among community members.
Decades of impoverishment of the local people, destruction of their sources of livelihood (farming and fishing), pollution of the environment through oil spillages and endless gas flaring, joblessness and neglect of the community by the oil companies and also the government, among others, have given rise to conflicts.
Furthermore, oil pollution and its crude method of clean up have often resulted in massive devastation of farm-lands, forest, rivers, destruction of livelihoods and communal properties. There are reports of constant use of state security personnel by oil companies to harass and intimidate disenchanted community people.