…says ‘open offices in Yenagoa or be prepared for the consequences’
Worried by discriminatory tendencies by multinational Oil companies in Nigeria, the Bayelsa State government on Sunday in Abuja said it had set up a special committee of legal experts to ensure that the oil firms are compelled to site their operational offices in Yenagoa, the State capital.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Bayelsa State, Mr. Kemasuode Wodu, read the Riot Act, during an interview with journalists on Sunday in Abuja.
See below the full statement entitled: “DISCRIMINATION BY THE OIL COMPANIES IN BAYELSA STATE.”
The State has contributed immensely to the development of the Country by virtue of the mineral resources tapped from the State by the companies based on licenses granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The State has very large deposits of crude oil and natural gas, amongst others.
It is worthy of note that crude oil was first produced in commercial quantities in Nigeria at Oloibiri in the present day Bayelsa State almost sixty years ago. Crude oil and gas are being exploited in several other locations in Bayelsa State for several decades now. The major Oil Companies operating in Bayelsa State are The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, Chevron/Texaco Nigeria Limited and Con Oil Nigeria Limited. These Companies have their operational facilities dotted all over Bayelsa State from where they drill crude oil and gas.
But quite regrettably none of these multinational oil companies has operational offices in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Rather they have their operational offices in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and in other States of the Country. It is from these locations that their operations are co – ordinated and managed. Management decisions, employments and contracts are made from these operational offices. In these locations, they have very large state of the art modern office and residential complexes. Some of these estates are comparable to those available in the developed world, if not better. Some of these structures are skyscrapers and some of these estates are built on tens of hectares of land. Several thousands of persons are employed in these operational offices outside Bayelsa State. Several other big multi – national and indigenous oil industry service Companies are also located where the operational offices of the Oil Companies are located. This is because they must relate with these oil companies in their operational offices where the managers and Executives are, in order to secure businesses, which are dependent on the oil companies. These service companies in turn have big operational offices in these locations with several thousands of employees and residential and office premises.
Several other businesses also follow these oil and oil service companies. The hospitality industry and financial services sector, amongst others, are major beneficiaries of the presence of the operational offices of these oil companies. There is multiple expansion of the economy of the place where these operational offices are located. Employee income taxes are paid to the State where the offices are located. Taxes are paid for the land and other properties of such Companies. Employees of those Companies in their thousands would rent houses, some would buy land and build houses and estates, they would patronize the markets and supermarkets and generally spend a lot of their resources in the State of location of these operational offices thereby boosting the economy of the place.
These are just but a few of the benefits which Bayelsa State would have been enjoying, if these Oil Companies had established their operational offices in Bayelsa State. Infact the presence of the operational offices of these oil majors is the catalyst needed for the economic development of the State.
It is my view, with the greatest respect, that the foregoing situation legally amounts to discrimination against the people of Bayelsa State, contrary to the provisions of Section 42(1) of the Constitution. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Right also prohibit discrimination of people.
The plight of the people of Bayelsa State has been aggravated by the fact that it is the State and its people that bear the brunt of the oil and gas operations in the Country due to the consistent degradation of the environment by incessant crude oil spillages across the State. Our environment is in a grave state of devastation and despoliation. The Companies do not carry out appropriate remediation of the degraded environment and neither is adequate compensation paid for the damage occasioned by the frequent spillages.
We must mention that the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources is vested with the relevant statutory power to take steps to remedy this situation. Section 2 of the Petroleum Act vests in the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources, the power to grant relevant licences to the oil companies to carry out crude oil and gas exploitation. Section 9 of the Petroleum Act also gives the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources the power to make regulations in guiding the operations of the oil companies. The Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources can therefore by regulations made pursuant to the Petroleum Act, direct that the said Oil Companies should establish their operational offices in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State where very substantial part of their crude oil and gas operations take place. We therefore respectfully call on the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources to so act in order to aid the economic and infrastructural development of the State.
There is no gainsaying the fact that when this is done, the internally generated revenue of the State will dramatically shoot up and the State will be able to meet its responsibility of providing basic infrastructure including hospitals, schools, motorable roads for the people of the State.
Meanwhile, I have constituted a crack team of legal practitioners to seriously consider the possibility of forcing the oil majors to open up their operational offices in the State by means of the legal process, should the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources fail to come to the aid of the State.
The State Government would also in the interim closely interact with the oil majors with a view to exploring the possibility of achieving our aim, without resort to the legal process.
The State Government is ready to provide land for these Companies to erect their offices and residential premises and issue Certificates of Occupancy in respect thereof within record time. Indeed His Excellency the Governor of the State now signs Certificates of Occupancy within three months of the application if the applicant complies with all the needed requirements.
May I also seize this opportunity to call on the Minister of Petroleum Resources to refuse to grant consent to the ongoing sale of OML29 in the Nembe area of Bayelsa State by the Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria Limited as neither the State Government nor any indigene of the State was effectively allowed to participate in the bidding process. This is discriminatory. Paragraph 14 of the First Schedule to the Petroleum Act entitles the Minister to so act.
Furthermore, assuming consent is to be granted, in line with my earlier comments, I urge the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources to impose as one of the conditions for the grant of consent, an obligation on the part of the Company buying same to establish its operational office in Yenagoa,
Infact due to the importance of the issue of oil and gas, I have decided to set up a Department of Oil and Gas in the Ministry of Justice. This Department will be charged with responsibility of dealing with all legal issues relating to oil and gas in the Ministry of Justice.
MR. KEMASUODE WODU, ESQ.
HONOURABLE ATTORNEY – GENERAL & COMMISSIONER FOR JUSTICE
SUNDAY OCTOBER 26 2014