Nigeria’s southern oil-rich Rivers state on Saturday backed a government call for major oil companies to move their offices to the Niger delta region, as part of measures to stem unrest in the oil-rich area.
Attacks by rebels seeking a fairer share of Nigeria’s multi-billion-dollar oil wealth for local residents have slashed output and hammered revenue at a time of falling global crude prices.
Last week, Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo ordered major oil companies including Anglo-Dutch Shell as well as US groups Mobil and Chevron to relocate their main offices to the troubled Niger delta region, where most people remain impoverished despite decades of oil extraction.
“We are in full support of the acting president,” Rivers state information commissioner Austin Tam-George said in a statement Saturday, referring to Osinbajo.
The vice president has been in charge while President Muhammadu Buhari has been on medical leave in Britain.
“If the oil companies move their headquarters to the Niger delta, they will be more responsive to the grievances of the people with a view to addressing them,” he added.
Tam-George called it “improper and unacceptable” for the companies to keep their main offices in Lagos and Abuja, well away from their oil operations.
“The Niger delta is where the oil companies carry out their exploration activities, with the resultant effects of spills and damage to the ecosystem. They need to have their administrative base there,” he insisted.
The country depends on oil for 70 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.
“I can say for sure that once the companies comply, the militancy and violence will end, because the people will see themselves as stakeholders in the business,” Tam-George said.
A recent lull in oil attacks is due to peace efforts of the federal and Rivers state governments, with more than 22,000 ex-militants surrendering their weapons, he added.
“But unlike the federal government, we don’t offer cash in exchange for weapons. We empower the youths through jobs, training and vocational skill, especially in ICT (information and communication technology, which is the oil of the future”.