…As Olu of Warri rep laments continuous marginalization of Itsekiri graduates, lack of basic amenities, others

From Joseph Obukata, Warri

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has been called upon to prevail on the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) led by the Group Chief Executive Officer Malam Mele Kyari, to give special considerations to the Itsekiri people in terms of employment and other infrastructural development.

Representatives of Olu of Warri palace/Liaison to NNPCL, Collins Oritsetimeyin Edema, made this appeal in a statement on Tuesday, saying that despite being the largest producer of oil and gas in Nigeria, the Itsekiri Nation has been denied basic social amenities, employment opportunities, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives from the oil companies operating in their homeland.

Edema noted that the Itsekiri people have peacefully protected and facilitated the oil production in their land by Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), its subsidiaries, and JV Partners especially NNPC E & P, NGMC, NGIC, Chevron, Shell, ConOil, Heritage Oil, ND Western,Elcrest, Seplat, etc operating in our homeland (mostly in the swamp and offshore) but their efforts have gone unrecognized and unrewarded.

In light of this, the Itsekiri nation, in the statement, called on President Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to direct the NNPCL to give Itsekiri owned businesses ‘special priority in the award and allocation of Oil Mining Licences in the next opportunity.

The Olu of Warri representatives, also called on President Tinubu to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in Itsekiri Oil Producing Communities like Ugborodo, Orere, Ogheye, Ekekporo whose land has been swept under the ocean due to recurrent sea surge (occasioned by climate change associated with crude oil exploration), and begin shoreline protection projects to forestall indigenes of these communities being swept into the sea especially as we approach another raining season.

He urged the federal government to address the many problems faced by Itsekiri communities and provide fair treatment and opportunities for the people.

The statement reads; “The Itsekiri People whose homeland is Warri in Delta State occupies the North Western Extremity of the Niger Delta. It is bounded on the west by the bight of Benin. Their neighbours are Binis to the North, the Ijaw to the South, the Urhobo to the East and the Yoruba of Ondo State to the Northwest. The Area is approximately 1,500 Square miles. Between 1490-1884 the Itsekiri had an independent political kingdom known as Warri Kingdom. It was not subordinate to any of the world powers in Europe or any African Kingdom.

“It had diplomatic and secular relations with Spain and Portugal and a Trade Treaty with Britain in 1851. It came under the protection of Her Britanic Majesty vide the treaty of 1884.

“By the treaty of 1894, the Itsekiri Nation remained under the British until the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was created.

“In 1914, without consulting the Itsekiri People, Lord Lugar decreed Nigeria into existence and made Warri Kingdom part of his enterprise.

“In present day Nigeria, the Itsekiri People have their homeland in Warri South, Warri SouthWest, Warri North, Uvwie Local Government Area, Udu Local Government, Ethiope West, Sapele Local Government, and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State (where we have Ologbo, Ajamimogha, Kolokolo, Ajoki, etc).

Continuing, the Olu of Warri representatives to NNPCL, disclosed, “Since Gulf Oil Company of Nigeria (later known as Chevron) became the first Oil major to discover commercially viable offshore oil with its discovery of the large Okan field, at Escravos River in 1963, the Itsekiri Nation has been grossly marginalised, neglected, traumatised, and punished by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), its subsidiaries, and JV Partners especially NNPC E & P, NGMC, NGIC, Chevron, Shell, ConOil, Heritage Oil, ND Western,Elcrest, Seplat, etc operating in our homeland (mostly in the swamp and offshore).

“This is despite the Itsekiri Nation boasting of approximately 33% of Nigeria’s Crude Oil and Gas production quantum. This makes the Itsekiri ethnic group the largest producer of Oil and Gas in Nigeria.

“Most of the Gas Plants and Power Stations on lands e.g the Otorogu Gas plant Ughelli get the majority of their Gas from the Itsekiri homeland. The Itsekiri Nation does not only contribute to

“Oil production in Delta State where it has the highest quantum of Oil and Gas production but also mainly is the reason why Edo State is termed Oil Producing with Oil companies operating in Itsekiri Communities like Ologbo, Ajamimogha, Kolokolo, Ajoki, etc in Edo State.

“The Itsekiri Nation is host to oil facilities like Okan Field, Meji, Meta, Meren, Malu, Abiteye, Dibi, Olero, Macaraba, Uton Nana, Egwa, Warri River Flow Station, Ogidigben Flow Station, Otumara Gas Plant, Sonam, Chevron Tank Farm, EGTL plant, etc.

“The EGTL operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) alone process about 400 millions cubic feet per day of Natural gas from our homeland, and currently 33,000 barrels of diesel (with capacity to reach 120,000 barrels per day).

“Chevron is involved in natural gas projects in the Escravos areas, including the Escravos Gas Plant (EGP), the Escravos Gas-to-Liquids (EGTL) facility and the Sonam Field Development Project.

Edema hinted that CNL operates the EGP, which has a total capacity of 680 million cubic feet per day of natural gas and LPG and a condensate export capacity of 58,000 barrels per day. Chevron and the NNPC operate the EGTL gas-to-liquids plant.

According to him, “It is sad that for 61 years of Oil exploration on our Soil, the only thing we have to show for it is environmental degradation from gas flaring associated with oil drilling , polluted water and aquatic life, washing off our shoreline into the ocean, lack of basic social amenities like portable drinking water, and health care, etc.

“Infact, there has been no Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) from the NNPCL, its JV Partners or subsidiaries, even when such exist the amount allocated for CSR is infinitesimal compared to what should be given to us.

On employment, he said: “The Itsekiri People are the least favoured in terms of employment by the NNPCL and its JV Partners despite being one of the most educated ethnic group in Sub Sahara Africa.

“The Itsekiri People are poorly employed even when there are lots of eligible graduates in all fields of studies. This is evident in the fact that in 2008, Chevron Nigeria Limited refused employment of about 120 successful Itsekiri graduate applicants in the Vocational Training Programme (VTP3) citing that those that passed were too much.

“Ironically since the return to democracy in 1999 till date the NNPC has not employed a single Itsekiri graduate as direct staff despite conducting recruitment in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2019.

“In 2019 over 1000 Itsekiri graduates applied for the NNPC graduate trainee openings with non called up for interview.

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He said that the alleged gross maltreatment of graduates of Itsekiri ethnic extraction in terms of employment by the NNPCL and its JV Partners operating in Itsekiri homeland brings to the fore the issue of catchment areas percentage in such employment process especially as it relates to the Nigerian Oil, and Gas Industry Content Dev Act 2010.

“We would like to cite instances for emphasis; From 2006-2008 NNPC recruited but no Itsekiri was considered. In 2011/2012 NNPC recruited over 132 Senior officers with no Itsekiri considered. In 2019/2020 the NNPC (now NNPCL) Recruited 1,050 Graduates Trainees into the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Also 134 Candidates was recruited by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.

“In both recruitment; no Itsekiri was considered.

“Chevron has allegedly recruited a bogus 300-500 service contract staffs since January 2024 but no Itsekiri was considered good enough. This has definitely cast serious doubts on the genuineness and integrity of “project Aurora” especially as most of these superfluous employees are either family members of top Chevron’s staff or kits & kins of the JV Director.

“Today only one ethnic group hold the first four top positions in the EGTL plant in Escravos (this is one shift alone making a total of Eight persons from one ethnic group holding the top four positions in EGTL) This employment is outside the Turn Around Maintenance jobs.

“Today, the Itsekiri graduates have the lowest employability rate compared to other ethnic groups in Nigeria (especially those who are host to oil facilities) despite being amongst the best.

On projects and contract awards, the statement reads; “Itsekiri owned businesses/companies are majorly at disadvantage when applying for a contract from the NNPCL/JV Partners contrary to the Nigerian Oil, and Gas Industry Content Dev Act 2010 (local content act). It is important to state that most Contractors of Itsekiri ethnic extraction are denied contract opportunities in projects within their domain contrary to the spirit of the local content law. This is despite the fact that most Itsekiri owned businesses have both the technical and financial capacity for any job in the oil industry. Participating in competitive bids for Itsekiri owned businesses are sometimes like a nightmare as considerations are not given to them even after meeting strigent technical and commercial criteria.

“Over the years in the allocation of Oil Mining Licences, no Itsekiri owned Companies have been considered good enough. It seems that once it is believed that an Itsekiri man holds a special interest in any company, that company automatically becomes a target for blackmail and ethnically sponsored attack especially from a specific ethnic group in the Niger Delta. This can be seen in the pipeline surveillance contract award with continuous blackmail on a particular company where the Itsekiri Monarch is the Chairman.

“The lopsidedness in the award of contracts by the NNPCL as manifested in the recent pipeline surveillance contract renewal where the Itsekiri Nation has been shortchanged is another pill too bitter to swallow.

Laying emphasis on corporate social responsibility and development of oil producing communities, Edema, said, “The truth is aside few houses built by the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), and the now defunct IRDC, there is virtually no presence of the NNPCL and JV partners operating on our soil in the communities where this oil and gas is being explored.

“There are poorly equipped Primary and Secondary Schools in our Riverine Communities. Primary Health Care is a daunting challenge as pregnant women are deprived of basic medical attention from pregnancy to delivery. There is no portable drinking water, no electricity, etc.

“The NNPC Foundation has done lots of projects in different parts of Nigeria but none in the Itsekiri Communities where this Oil is taken from in our homeland.

“In all of this, the Itsekiri People has been peaceful ensuring that Oil and Gas facilities in our land are secured, and ensuring that crude oil flow unhindered so the country can meet up with its OPEC quota.

“Curiously, despite our deliberate efforts to maintain peaceful and conducive environment for the NNPCL, its subsidiaries, and JV Partners in our land, it seems that we are being punished for being law abiding and peaceful. What should be ours are brazenly taken away from us. When we manage to get appointed into any sensitive and important National Position, the Itsekiri
person will be blackmailed, persecuted, traumatised, and haunted by known enemies.

“In the light of all that we have stated above, we therefore make the following demands;

“We call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to help prevail on the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) led by the Group Chief Executive Officer Malam Mele Kyari to give special considerations to the Itsekiri People in terms of employment (even beyond what is captured in the Nigerian Oil, and Gas Industry Content Dev. Act 2010) both in the NNPCL, its subsidiaries like the NUPRC, NAPIMS, NMDPRA, NGIC, NGMC, NNPC E & P, WRPC, etc, and JV partners operating in Itsekiri homeland like Chevron Nigeria Limited, SPDC, ND Western, Conoil, Seplat, Neconde, Heritage Oil, etc. This has become necessary because as at today, the Itsekiri graduates have the lowest employability rate compared to other ethnic groups in Nigeria despite being amongst the best.

“We call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to issue an executive order to NNPCL and JV partners concerning employment of indigenes of Host Communities by specifying a particular percentage (60%) be given by the “project promoter” to those whose areas the “project” is located.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to call the Managing Director of Chevron Nigeria Limited to order especially concerning the recent bogus service contract employment currently brewing unrest within their area of operations, and for recruitment concerning
“project aurora” so as to forestall any breakdown of law and order.

“We call on the President and Commander in Chief who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to order the immediate relocation of the Operational Headquarters of Chevron
Nigeria Limited (CNL) to Warri or Escravos. This will help to boost host community confidence in the operations of CNL and deepen peaceful existence between the company and her host communities.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to prevail on the NNPCL (through the NNPC Foundation)/JV Partners to give special consideration to Itsekiri Oil bearing Communities in terms of CSR projects especially in the provision of health care (to save our pregnant women), portable drinking water, and electricity.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in Itsekiri Oil Producing Communities like Ugborodo, Orere, Ogheye, Ekekporo whose land has been swept under the ocean due to recurrent sea surge (occasioned by climate change associated with crude oil exploration), and begin shoreline protection projects to forestall indigenes of these communities being swept into the sea especially as we approach another raining season.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to direct the NNPCL (especially through the NNPC Foundation) and JV Partners to build or renovate, and fully equip Primary and Secondary Schools in our Communities. This includes building a Staff quarters as well.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to direct the NNPCL to address the lopsidedness associated with contract awards in projects being executed in Itsekiri homeland by the NNPCL, its subsidiaries, and JV partners as seen with the recent renewal of the pipeline surveillance contract where the Itsekiri Nation has been shortchanged. The NNPCL has continuously disregarded the local content act as it relates to awarding contracts to Itsekiri owned businesses in our homeland.

“We wish to call on the President and Commander in Chief who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources to direct the NNPCL to give Itsekiri owned businesses ‘special priority in the award and allocation of Oil Mining Licences in the next opportunity. This will believe will go a long way in making us have a sense of belonging in the Oil wealth God almighty has graciously deposited in our homeland.

“Finally, we believe that our God given wealth is not a curse but a blessing and as such refused to accept the current status quo where the Itsekiri Nation is being punished by the NNPCL for being peaceful and law abiding”, the statement reads.