Bayelsa mulls law to compel oil firms open offices in Yenagoa

Bayelsa mulls law to compel oil firms open offices in Yenagoa

Sunday, October 26, 2014 9:44 pm

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

The Bayelsa State government in South-south Nigeria on Sunday directed multinational oil firms operating in its territories to relocate their operational offices to Yenagoa, the State capital or risk being dragged to court over the issue.

In the alternative, the State government asked Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources to use her powers to force the companies to establish their presence in the State.

Governor Seriake Dickson

Governor Seriake Dickson

Kemasuode Wodu, Bayelsa State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice who revealed this to journalists on Sunday in Abuja said a special committee of legal experts to ensure that the oil firms are compelled to site their operational offices in Yenagoa, the State capital has been set up.

According to him, while Bayelsa has contributed immensely to the development of the country by virtue of the mineral resources tapped from its territory by companies granted licenses by the federal government, the firms only have their operational facilities dotted all over Bayelsa State from where they drill crude oil and gas.

An oil well  in Egbebiri, Bayelsa state

An oil well in Egbebiri, Bayelsa state

Wodu who identified oil multinationals operating in the state to include Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, Chevron/Texaco Nigeria Limited and Con Oil Nigeria Limited said none of the companies has operational offices in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

The AG noted that operations of the oil companies usually generate considerable economic activities to the benefit of their hosts which Bayelsa State has been denied of.

“In fact the presence of the operational offices of these oil majors is the catalyst needed for the economic development of the State,” said Wodu who argued that the failure of the multinational firms to have operational offices in Bayelsa State “legally amounts to discrimination against the people of Bayelsa State, contrary to the provisions of Section 42(1) of the Constitution. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Right also prohibit discrimination of people.”

“The plight of the people of Bayelsa State has been aggravated by the fact that it is the State and its people that bear the brunt of the oil and gas operations in the Country due to the consistent degradation of the environment by incessant crude oil spillages across the State.

This, he added was despite the fact that the State has had to bear the brunt of oil production like environmental like despoliation and degradation arising from oil spillage.

But the State also realised that the regulation of the oil industry is exclusively vested in the hands of Federal Government, he it called the Minister of Petroleum Resources to take steps to remedy this situation.

“Section 2 of the Petroleum Act vests in the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources, the power to grant relevant licences to the oil companies to carry out crude oil and gas exploitation. Section 9 of the Petroleum Act also gives the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources the power to make regulations in guiding the operations of the oil companies.

“The Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources can therefore by regulations made pursuant to the Petroleum Act, direct that the said Oil Companies should establish their operational offices in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State where very substantial part of their crude oil and gas operations take place.

“We therefore respectfully call on the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources to so act in order to aid the economic and infrastructural development of the State.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that when this is done, the internally generated revenue of the State will dramatically shoot up and the State will be able to meet its responsibility of providing basic infrastructure including hospitals, schools, motorable roads for the people of the State.

The AG said he has constituted a crack team of legal practitioners to seriously consider the possibility of forcing the oil majors to open up their operational offices in the State by means of the legal process, should the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources fail to come to the aid of the State.

This, he said is in addition to setting up a Department of Oil and Gas in the Ministry of Justice. This Department will be charged with responsibility of dealing with all legal issues relating to oil and gas in the Ministry of Justice.

The AG also called on the Minister of Petroleum Resources to refuse to grant consent to the ongoing sale of OML29 in the Nembe area of Bayelsa State by the SPDC as neither the State Government nor any indigene of the State was effectively allowed to participate in the bidding process or in the alternative impose as one of the conditions for the grant of consent, an obligation on the part of the Company buying same to establish its operational office in Yenagoa,

The State Government also said it will closely interact with the oil majors with a view to exploring the possibility of achieving its aim, without resort to the legal process.

As an incentive, Wodu said the government is ready to provide land for the companies to erect their offices and residential premises and issue Certificates of Occupancy in respect thereof within record time.

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