Despite being one of the ethnic groups that host oil companies and wells in the Niger Delta, the Isoko nation as a major ethnic group in Delta state has been in darkness for decades, investigation has revealed.
In an interview, convener of Isoko Youth Coalition Against Marginalisation in the Award of Pipeline Surveillance Contract in the Niger Delta, Iteveh Nur’ Ekpokpobe, told Emerald News that the Isoko nation has been an endangered specie in the Niger Delta.
He told this online newspaper that despite negotiations and meetings, the powers that be have consistently denied Isoko nation of power supply despite hosting oil companies and several oil pipelines running through the Isoko nation in Delta state.
Iteveh, who is also an investigative journalist and rights activist, insisted that for decades the Isoko nation has been experiencing poor power supply as many parts of the two local governments that make up the Isoko nation have never seen electricity.
He told this online portal that the challenges in Isoko nation are well beyond unemployment, financial insecurity and marginalization. He insisted that the lack of power in Isoko communities is a major drawback to industrialization and development.
He revealed that recent plans by the leadership of Isoko Development Union (IDU) to invest its share of the proceeds from the 3 percent of Petroleum Industry Act in gas powered alternative energy was threatened by the oil corporations operating in the two local government areas.
He said: “Inquiries made to the companies by the IDU hit the brick wall by the refusal of the oil companies to disclose how much is due to the Isoko nation since the PIA came into effect. This development will, obviously, scuttle the plans to provide alternation power to Isoko nation to rev up business in Isoko, provide employment and reduce youth restiveness.”
He said the IDU is worried by the poor electricity supply year-in-year-out in the area, noting that as a way out the IDU is seeking to explore alternative provision of power to people of the area by converting the abundant gas being flared by these oil companies into electricity.
He added: “IDU’s quest for alternative energy provision is a result of the federal government’s neglect of Isoko people, a major oil-producing ethnic group that has no single government’s presence in terms of facilities or political patronage with regard to appointment of Isoko sons or daughters into any federal position.
“Uzere, a community in Isoko, is the second community where oil was discovered shortly after Oloibiri in Bayelsa state in commercial quantities. Whereas Oloibiri’s oil wells have since dried up, the wells in Uzere are still waxing strong as major oil and gas hubs that supply huge quantities of hydrocarbons that continue to fuel the national economy.
“Yet Uzere and the entire Isoko are in darkness without any federal government’s presence. This is also the case in other Isoko communities that are hosts to oil facilities, from Olomoro to Oleh, Irri to Ozoro, Ovruode, among others.”
Speaking on negotiating the interest of Isoko nation by the Isoko Youth Coaltion, Iteveh told this paper that the group had carried out series of negotiations on behalf of Isoko nation but yet to receive needed attention.
He cited an example on the contract for the surveillance of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta.
According to him: “Sometimes in August 2022, a contract for the surveillance of oil pipeline in the entire region was awarded to several companies.
“The contract threw stakeholders in the region into a frenzy. As a coalition, we wrote several petitions to the presidency, the National Security Adviser, the National Assembly, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and others.
“Following our petitions to the senate, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions headed by Sen. Ayo Akinyulere, on instructions of the Senate President then, Ahmed Lawan, held on January 28, 2023 on the issues raised.
“The hearing was attended by the conveners of Coalition of Isoko Youths, President Generals of Isoko Communities in Bayelsa State, representative of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and others.
“The Senate committee recommended at the end of the hearing, the need for the NNPC and the federal government to engage Isoko youths and stakeholders for keeping the peace and protecting crude oil installations in their areas ever since the beginning of exploration till date.
“The Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPC, Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari reached out to the leadership of the coalition after which the now former Managing Director of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Mr. Ali Muhammed Zahra, was delegated to interface with the leadership of the coalition and the companies, to wit, Tantita Security and Zane Energy Limited in order to officially accommodate our youths.
“These deliberations which kicked off since January 2023 gave birth to several meetings and decisions. For months, we were shifted on a course. This course was supposed to resolve the issues that instigated our agitations but it did not.
“It is sad that over this period of time, all the promises made to us have not been kept. These back and forth movement confirmed our fears and obvious truth, that there is a deliberate attempt to deprive Isokos and by proxy, Urhobos of their quota in this negotiation.
“It is also a well-established fact that 32% of the entire oil production in Nigeria runs through the pipelines planted on Isoko land and it is our perspective that Isoko be treated as critical stakeholders in the ‘Nigerian Question’.
“We have our hope anchored on the assurances of the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari, who despite his busy schedule has been on top of the matter. Deliberations and consultations are still ongoing.
“In the same vein, I must commend the NNPCL’s GCEO, Mr. Mele Kyari for his positive intentions towards Isoko nation. He has been fatherly in his approach and we hope it materializes in the re-award of the contracts.”