The Nigerian Army has said it will dialogue with communities in the Niger Delta region on the need to put an end to the bombing of oil installations in their domain whenever a disagreement ensues between them and oil companies operating in the region.
The Commander, 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Brig. General Stephenson Olabanji, disclosed this when members of the executive committee of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Port Harcourt.
The commander stressed that the meeting will afford the Army the opportunity to let members of the communities know that oil installations and other critical infrastructure in their domain are Federal Government assets, not those of oil companies operating in the region.
“There is something that we are planning; this came from the fact that my interaction in the last six months with the communities portray a kind of image within the community that most of all these installations belong to the oil companies. You know most of the installation and critical infrastructure belong to the Nigerian government, they don’t belong to the oil companies.
“That is why you see that these restiveness in the communities, if they have a small industrial dispute with any of these oil companies or any issue that has to do with their corporate social responsibility, the next thing they do is to go and blow up the pipelines. As I speak now, in Bayelsa State, in the past three days, we have recorded about three blasts of pipelines, resulting from these community disputes with oil companies.
“These oil facilities belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria; not Agip, not Shell, not Total. Whatever they do, any remedial work on these pipelines, they still surcharge the government and it affects the money accruing to the state. We don’t know that if we do that, we are contributing to the problem of the economy of the state.
“We want to carry this advocacy to the communities and we cannot do that alone. We have to engage journalists and the civil society, and some other leaders and stakeholders in the state. Most of these infrastructure belong to the state; as communities, we should protect them rather than vandalize them. That will bring more money to our state and more money to our communities, without negating the corporate social responsibilities the companies are supposed to do for the communities”, Brig.-Gen. Olabanji said.
Speaking earlier, chairman of NUJ in the state, Mr. Omoni Ayo-Tamuno, called for the upgrading of the 2 Brigade to a full Division, considering the position of Port Harcourt as the capital of the South-South geopolitical zone of the country.
Ayo-Tamuno, who congratulated Olabanji on his deployment as the Commander of the 2 Brigade, commended the Nigerian Army for its contribution to the existing peace and security of lives and property in the state.
Insisting that kidnapping has nothing to do with poverty or unemployment, the NUJ chair called on the Federal Government to set up a proper corporal punishment for kidnappers in the country.