After close to half a century of exploration activities, crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity for the first time in Nigeria in Oloibiri town, present day Bayelsa state in 1958. This discovery was a huge milestone as it presented the emerging nation with a veritable economic fillip which could bring about all round development and a higher standard of living. The peoples of the Niger Delta also hoped for an accelerated development of the area as a result of the discovery of the black gold.
Sixty years down the line, these hopes remain hopes, unfulfilled hopes and dashed hopes. Indeed the endowment of the Niger Delta with hydro carbon has only been a tale of regret, neglect and death. What was meant to be a blessing has turned out otherwise and the peoples of the Niger Delta and the entire ecosystem has borne the brunt of the exploratory activities of the Multinational Oil Companies. The underdevelopment and visible destruction in the Niger Delta flows directly from these Multinational Oil Companies whose only interest is to sit in high-rise buildings in Lagos while repatriating profits to their home country.
From town to town, village to village and all across the Niger Delta, the story is the same. The waters and land and the air have been ravaged and ravished and polluted by those who seek the black gold and once they succeed, they elope with petrodollars whilst the communities hosting the mineral are abandoned. These Multinational oil companies operate recklessly with an idiosyncrasy that they owe no obligation to the host communities which are pillaged and degraded in the course of their activities. Gas flaring is a common sight while there are repeated instances of oil spillages which contaminates the source of drinking water for the locals as well as destroy aquatic life generally.
This disturbing attitude of the Multinational oil companies is traceable to the fact that those who call the shots stay far away from the Niger Delta. They find pleasure in setting up their headquarters in Lagos and Abuja, from where they dismiss the plight of Niger Deltans as mere media hype. It can be recalled that this was the situation that gave rise to militancy that plagued the Oil sector few years ago wherein expatriates and other officials of these multinational oil companies became the target of kidnapping and other attacks by youths in the Niger Delta who felt betrayed and neglected.
It is a thing of joy that that dark era of militancy is over in the Niger Delta. The people have chosen a path of peace and progress. The Multinational oil companies must reciprocate by showing true commitment to the developmental needs of their host communities. The era of cosmetic and self-serving CSR projects is over.
More so, there is no justification for these oil companies to have their corporate Head office in any other place than the Niger Delta where they actually operate. The recent directive by the Ag. President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta is a step in the right direction. Government must also ensure that these Oil Companies make active and substantial contributions to the development of their host communities. This is not a privilege; it is in line with Global best practice and the Niger Delta cannot be an exception.