FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA'S
INVASION OF ODI, BAYELSA STATE, IN NIGER DELTA
By Ade Ogidan, Senior Correspondent
BRITAIN yesterday lent its voice to claims by some groups and individuals that the Federal Government, rather than multi-national oil companies, is responsible for themarginalisation of Niger Delta and its indigenes.
Canvassing for dialogue and use of "democratic instruments" in resolving the Niger Delta lingering crisis, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Sir Graham Burton,asked government to live up to its responsibilities to indigenesof the region since it receives the bulk of earnings from oil business.
Burton, who spoke yesterday at the yearly general meeting/luncheon of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) in Lagos, pointed out that Shell Petroleum Development Company - the ubiquitous whipping outfit for Niger Delta crisis -for instance, earned only 75 cents per barrel of oil when the pricewas $20, against $15.37 being credited to Government through theNigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
When the price went up to $25 abarrel, Shell's earnings went up to 83 cents against $20.26 accruableto NNPC, the envoy added.
He said: "It is easy to score cheap propaganda victories by blaming all the Delta's problems onthe multi-national companies. But this is short-sighted," arguingthat "yet, it is an indisputable fact that the government, throughNNPC, is the largest shareholder in each of the joint venture agreementsand thus receives by far the largest revenue from oil production".
For instance, "in the case of Shell, when the oil price is $20 a barrel, Shell receives 75 cents per barrel, whereas NNPC receives $15.37. At $25 per barrel, thesefigures rise to 83 cents and $20.26 respectively".
Burton however, admitted that multi-national oil companies are expected to contribute to the socio-economic development of their host communities, advising that the saying 'from whom much is given, much is expected', should be upheld in resolving the Niger Delta crisis.
"Multi-national companiescertainly have a developmental role within the community, but otherpartners too must face up to their responsibilities," the envoy asserted.
Describing the current situation in the region as "very worrying," Burton said that"dialogue remains the only realistic way forward".
To him, "Looting and hostage taking may provide short term benefit to a few, but only complicates the search for a long-term solution".
Essentially, he said "thehope for a solution to this problem (Niger Delta crisis), lies inthe application of true democratic principles, with the indigenouspeople of the area, having a full say in the outcome".
According to the High Commissioner,
"democracy is about more than just an elected President. It depends
for its survival on many institutions. The legislative, judiciary,police,
civil service and even the military are all essential foundationsfor
He added: "It will take commitment of all states and regions of the country, following the example ofthe President and working together for the good of all Nigerians,to make democracy work.
"I look forward to the day when there is no more talk of 'marginalisation' from any sector ofthe country. Not because someone has discovered a 'magic formula'for perfectly distributing appointments - that will never happen.But through acceptance that the country needs the services of thebest qualified people to lead it, regardless of their ethnic backgroundand through recognition that those appointed will work transparentlyfor the good of the whole country".
Burton also pointed out that "all parts of the country suffered under military rule, ordinaryNigerians in the north as much as those in the south. Even amongstthe military, the majority did not benefit. It is thus in the interestsof everyone that democracy should flourish".
Quoting Mr. Peter Hair, British Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he said that Britain's policy in Africa is unequivocal.
"We will back success. Wewill support those who stand up for democracy and human rights. Wewill help governments that want to reform their economies. We willsupport just African solutions to African problems.
"We will work with those leaders
who commit themselves to freeing their people from poverty .... Wewill
not support corrupt governments. We will not subscribe to economicmismanagement.
We will not fund repression or bankroll dictatorship,"he said.