By Emeka Nwokocha
The National Chairman of Host Communities producing oil and gas in Nigeria (HOSCON), Dr. Mike Emuh, has reaffirmed his unalloyed commitment to break the jinx of underdevelopment stradling the oil and gas producing communities in the Niger Delta region, saying he would promote unity and deliver cutting edge services to catalyse unprecedented infrastructural development in the region.
Emuh made the assertion recently, while addressing leaders and representatives of oil bearing communities in Niger Delta, at a meeting in Effurun, headquarters of Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State. He charged the communities to align with his vision to change the narratives of underdevelopment in Niger Delta. Continuing, Emuh called on the communities to embrace peace and shun bickering, infighting and divisive conducts inimical to the progress and development of the region.
Emuh commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his support and commitment to the vision of HOSCON.
His words, “I want to assure you that President Muhammadu Buhari is fully committed to assuaging the suffering of the people of the oil and gas bearing communities in Niger Delta. He has given us a gazette to carve the path for economic, infrastructural and social development of the host communities, a development that underscores the President’s sincerity and commitment to address the endemic challenges in the Niger Delta.”
He continued, “as you may know, the issues bothering on pipeline surveillance operations, modular refineries and gas flare money are prioritised and given a nod in the gazette. What that means is, in the years ahead, employment, industrial and economic activities will surge up, and the hurting issues of undervelopment in the Niger Delta will be fully addressed.
“Recall that some persons had thought the pipeline surveillance operations were not real, but today, it is very clear before their eyes that those recruited for the job will resume work very soon. We are truly making progress.”
Continuing, Emuh rhetorically asked, “what were we looking for when the traditional rulers of the Niger Delta formed TROMPCON? What were we looking for when the leaders of thought in the Niger Delta formed Host Communities? What were the youths, and women agitators looking for? Truly, they were looking for a law that will profit the host communities and address their infrastructural challenges.
“It is good to know that Mr. President has given us a gazette to catalyse development in the oil and gas bearing communities – this is an opportunity that had eluded us in the past 50 years.”
Emphasizing importance of peace in the overall development of the host communities, Emuh said, “I stand to say that we have to come together as one indivisible entity, we have to come together in the spirit of almagamtion, we have to come together in unity, we must not divide ourselves, we must not fight ourselves. I want HOSCON to be united while ethnicity, tribalism, and infighting are consigned to a garbage can. Considering the enormous tasks on our hands, we must come together as one indivisible family and activate a modality to actualize our goals, using the resources accrued to us.”
Emuh, however, lamented the horrible state of infrastructure in Niger Delta, lamenting that over N2 trillion had been allocated to Niger Delta by the Federal Government within 18 years, but there is nothing to write home about the decrepit infrastructure dotting the nook and cranny of the region. He called for the cooperation of all stakeholders to bring the desired change and eradicate poverty in its entirety in the region.
Recalling the historic events that enabled the amalgamation of all the splinter groups in the Niger Delta, Emuh said, “the Presidency was interested in the unity of the people of the Niger Delta, to drive growth and development in the region. Therefore, we tarried with that growth trajectory and got all groups together into one fold to drive the HOSCON agenda.
Continuing, Emuh said that the amalgamation opened a new vista of opportunity for HOSCON, noting that the gazette empowers HOSCON to manage the funds accruable to it from the OICs (International Oil Companies) and NOCs (National Oil Companies) to fastrack economic and infrastructural development of Niger Delta.
He however, expressed concern that while efforts were being made to get everyone on board to drive the vision of HOSCON, some persons are bent on pursuing a divisive agenda by perpetuating discord. He charged mischief makers to turn a new leaf.
His words, “I call on everybody to come together under one umbrella of HOSCON and move forward for the betterment of our people.”
In a similar vein, HRM T.E.M Oviri, JP, The Ovie of Ukpedi Kingdom, spoke eloquently on the importance of the meeting. He said, “we have gathered here today to discuss the way forward for HOSCON. We also registered our appreciation to Mr. President who has promised to effect the payment of the gas flare money to the host communities. We equally appreciate all his (President Muhammadu Buhari) lieutenants, Ministers and members of the National Assembly for facilitating that decision. We equally thank God for the life of our chairman, Dr. Mike Emuh, who is the arrow head of the HOSCON struggle. I also thank every monarch in the host communities that have given us their support in realisation of this struggle.”
On his part, His Highness Obong Okon, S.A, State Chairman, HOSCON, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman Elders Advisory Council, said, I am delighted seeing our people putting themselves together to achieve a common goal, to get what belongs to us; it is a fantastic idea that opens a new page of opportunities for the host communities. We have not seen this unity amongst us before, if we had it this good over the years, we would have gotten all our rights.
“We want to make sure HOSCON restores peace in every troublesome zone because we want to ride on the platform of peace; we no longer want Niger Delta to be given a bad name.”
Continuing, he said, “we must also make sure we call on all the oil and gas companies operating in our communities, the IOCs to maintain a healthy relationship with the host communities by signing a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). That will make them (IOCs) sit up.” He noted that most of the problems in the Niger Delta were caused by the Multi Nationals, saying, “they don’t give the communities their rights; they don’t carry them along; but when the people rise up to query their actions, they brand them militants. With the MUO duly operational, either party that erred will be held responsible. That is our vision for 2020.”
In her speech, Mrs Obasi Princess, of Imo State HOSCON Elders Advisory Council, said, “I am pleading to President Buhari to listen to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta region and revamp the decripit infrastructure begging for attention.”
Continuing, she noted that the suffering of the people of Niger Delta is beyond imagination, saying, “as a mother, we have been behind him (President Buhari) in prayers all through his journey to becoming the president. We urge him to give us attention, that is why we ran the race and gave him our votes during the last election.”