Chiefs and community leaders in the Niger Delta have urged oil communities in Ghana to carefully screen their leaders before giving them the mandate to negotiate with oil companies and governments on their behalf.
The chiefs and community leaders in Oruma and Rumuekpe revealed that oil companies in the Niger Delta use divide-and-rule tactics where money is used to influence leaders to the total neglect of the welfare of entire communities.
The chiefs of Oruma, Joseph Efanga and Ishmael Jacob Emeni, in an interview with a delegation of Ghanaian journalists and civil society, advised, “leaders in oil communities in Ghana should be sincere and not betray their followers”. “Oil companies promise and if you don’t hold them well, they do not implement what they say”, said Chief Efanga and went on to advise that oil communities should therefore elect trusted leaders that will seek the interest of all the people.
“They use our leaders to fight us” said community leaders in Rumuekpe, a broken community as a result of the oil war that plunged the Niger Delta into chaos and destruction.
They said since oil production started in their community in 1954, they have not had electricity, schools, good drinking water and other basic infrastructure. The community leaders, who are returnees after the oil war, accused their chiefs of awarding scholarship schemes from the oil companies to their relatives and siting boreholes in their compounds to the neglect of the deserving people.
The visit to the Niger Delta in the Bayelsa and Rivers States forms part of the training of journalists in Ghana and Uganda by Revenue Watch Institute, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Penplusbytes on oil reporting. The motive of the trip was to appreciate the experiences of Nigeria in oil production that will better inform improved media oversight of issues in Ghana’s oil and gas industry.
The chiefs and community leaders condemned the divide-and-rule tactics used by oil companies including Shell and Agip (Azienda General Italiana Petroli), to disrupt the united front of communities that rightly fight for their welfare. The chiefs and community leaders in Oruma again complained of total neglect by these oil companies. “We have no good roads, no standard hospital and there is frequent disease outbreak” cried Chief Joseph Efanga.
The chiefs of Oruma asserted that “the oil companies think of what they take from you and not what they will give”. He alleged oil companies train the youth in the communities and refuse to employ them in the company. “Involve local communities in decision making and give the youth jobs”, Chief Efanga said in a final note of his advice to politicians and oil companies in Ghana.
In a similar interview, the General Manager of DAAR Communications PLC, a television (AIT) and radio station (Raypower) that reports on series of lethal operations of oil companies in the Niger Delta, Barr. G. Pereomongu, stated categorically that “Niger Delta has great, fantastic prospects that can be likened to Florida in the US but lacked visionary leadership” He admonished Ghana not to allow the Niger Delta experience to happen.
Oruma is the community that has taken Shell to the international court in the Netherlands accusing Shell of oil spills that destroyed agriculture lands.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest producers of petroleum, including many oil wells in the Oil Rivers. Since 1975, the Niger Delta has accounted for more than 75% of Nigeria’s oil export earnings. The Niger Delta covers more than 70,000 sq. km and makes up 7.5% of Nigeria’s land mass.