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PDTF and Sustainability in Oil Producing Communities – Haruna Manu Isah

By Haruna Manu Isah, Kaduna, Nigeria – October 10, 2011 – The last time this writer checked the Petroleum Technology Development Fund website was just few days ago and realized that it is already 38 years old. That the Fund was established by a military Decree (Now Act) No 25 of 1973 and before then, there existed the Gulf Oil Company Fund, which was repealed by the aforementioned Decree. The Decree establishing the Fund specifically stressed that the Fund shall be available for the purpose of training Nigerians to qualify as Graduates, professionals, Technicians and craftsmen in the fields of engineering, geology, science and management in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and abroad.

A cursory look at the mandates of the Fund revealed that the Fund shall utilize its resource for the following major purposes

(a)    To provide scholarship and bursaries wholly or partially in the universities, colleges, and institutions in Nigeria and abroad.

(b)   To maintain, supplement or subsidize such training or education  as mentioned above;

(c)    To make suitable endowments to faculties in Nigerian Universities, colleges or institution as approved by the minister.

(d)   To make available suitable books and training equipment in the institutions aforementioned.

(e)    For sponsoring regular or as necessary visits to the oil fields, refineries, petrochemical plants, and for arranging any necessary attachment of personnel to establishment connected with the development of the oil and gas industry; and

(f)     For financing of and participation in seminars and conference which are connected with the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and Abroad.

Now, this writer being not a politician is not interested in any way in the political rigmarole that entangled the Fund in the past few years since its transfer to the presidency from its desk status at the Department of Petroleum Resource in the year 2000. But the central focus of this write up is to make a case for oil producing communities having visited the area recently.  Also, to take a critical overview of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund in relation to the need to promote environmental sustainability in the oil producing communities. This becomes necessary because without sustainable environment for the oil exploration and exploitation to thrive on continuous bases, the Fund would one day outlive its usefulness for there would be nothing to explore and hence no need to train anybody for the environment must have collapse. Equally, without an environmental sustainability the dream of having a local content may as well be a pipe dream and therefore training of indigenous expert would as well be an exercise in futility.

        A close look at the mandates of the Fund may suggest that its focal interest is sustainability of oil exploration and exploitation with obviously little or no reference to the environmental sustainability of the host communities. Can the Fund continue to take a passing interest in the environmental sustainability of the host communities and still remain relevant? Can the Fund continue to build the superstructure if the substructure is threateningly weak?  Is there no need for backward linkages between the Fund and the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta?

        To begin with, there are about nine oil producing states (Edo, Ondo, Delta,Imo, Abia, Rivers,Akwa ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa states.),  and are mostly located in the Niger Delta region of the country. The Delta covers about 20,000kmsq within wetland of 70,000kmsq formed primarily by sediment deposition. It is also home to some 20 million people and 40 different ethnic groups. These floodplains are estimated to make up about 7.5% of Nigeria’s total land mass. It is also reported to be the largest wetland and maintains the third largest drainage basin in Africa. This well-endowed ecosystem contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet and equally supporting abundant flora and fauna, arable terrain that can as well sustain a wide variety of crops (lumbering), or agricultural tress and more species of freshwater fish than any other ecosystem in West Africa. But sadly, it is estimated that the Niger Delta region would experience a lost of about 40% of its inhabitable terrain in the next thirty years largely due to carelessness of the oil industry. With this geometrical environmental devastation, the region would loose about 80% of its natural terrain by 2050.

        To further understand this glum picture, the country has a total of 159 oil fields and 1481 wells in operation according to a recent release by the NNPC. And the Niger Delta region is a home to about 78 of the 159 oil fields. To appreciate the significance of these to the Nigerian state, it is of cardinal importance to state here that as at 2000, oil and gas exports accounted for more than 98% of export earnings and about 83% of federal government revenue, as well as generating more than 40 of its GDP.  The country is estimated to have 35.3 billion barrels of oil reserve as at today.

By virtue of its geographical location and endowments, this region is today by far the most endangered zone in the world. This is simply because what supposed to be a blessing has turned out to be its own major albatross and predisposing the country to unwanted political stress and strains. In a recent report the BBC World Service averred that the Delta is the world global capital of oil pollution. It is estimated that about 300 oil spills are being recorded every year in the Niger Delta. Equally according to Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) an estimated 1.89 million barrels of petroleum were spilled into the Niger Delta in 1976 to 1996 out of a total of 2.4 million barrels spilled in 4835 incidents and largely due to sabotage. And as at 2000, the country recorded more than 7000 spills. This has caused large scale displacement and dislocation of families and local communities in the Niger Delta. Fishing and farming which have been the major occupations of the locals are now rendered useless due to environmental degradation. For example, it is reported that Ogoniland could take about 30 years to fully regain from the damage caused by years of oil spills. Communities are faced with a severe health risk with some families’ drinking water with high levels of carcinogens. These environmental impacts are so enormous. Well, if the negative environmental impacts are not compelling enough for the PTDF to engage in backward integration with the local communities, then the social impacts would. The Niger Delta communities have remained grossly socio-economically underdeveloped and pauperized amidst the immense oil wealth due to systemic dis-equilibrium coupled with unbridled corruption by the leaders of the Niger Delta. This has forced the peasants to make demands for social services from the oil companies than they can make from their leaders and the Nigerian state. This has more often than not led to conflicts and kidnapping of expatriates working for the oil companies. This equally led to the unwholesome call for resource control which some of us don’t see any scientific correlation to what is happening with this rather political grandstanding.

          Indeed, this writer supports the remittance of derivations from oil revenue to primary oil producing communities, but not to state governments as currently being the case. This is simply because ownership of oil resource belongs neither to state governments nor to the communities, but the communities are primary victims of the oil exploration activities. The communities can therefore only claim damages due to exploration which this article is making a case for. The communities are stakeholders just like the U.S which buys about 40% of the exported oil. The ownership of natural deposits are Divined just like the air we breathe. And being citizens of the world we are all stakeholders. The sustainability of the Niger Delta environment would have cumulative positive impacts to not only the people of the region but also other stakeholders and even the micro organisms beneath the soil who are equally stakeholders.

      Finally, there is apparently some oasis of hope for the people of the oil producing communities since the ascension of office of the current ES/CEO of the Fund, Engr. Muttaqha Darma. This can be ascertained by his quick implementation of some strategic projects and progammes in the oil producing communities like the completion of Federal Technical Institute, Bonny in River State, and equally, the establishment of primary and secondary schools at Oporaza and Okeronkoko communities in Delta state. These are projects geared toward social sustainability of the areas, but what about the environmental sustainability projects?  This should be based on the peculiar needs of the locals whose farming and fishing activities have been dislocated.

Haruna Manu Isah

Environmentalist, with,

Al-Mustapha consulting Limited,

U.B.A Building, Tudun Wada

Kaduna.

harunamanu@ymail.com

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Posted by on Oct 10 2011. Filed under Columnists, Haruna Manu Isah, NNP Columnists, Oil Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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