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Buhari apologises to Rivers communities for perennial neglect

President Muhammadu Buhari has apologised to Beleme and Offion Ama communities within the Oil Mining Lease (OML 25) facility in Rivers State for their abandonment by the government in 40 years despite contributing 45,000 barrels daily to the nation’s output.

He regretted that the affected settlements were still begging for basic social amenities like schools and hospitals in this age and time amid their immense contribution to Nigeria’s wealth.

The president, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, tendered the apology at the official re-opening of the flow station shut down by the host communities that had opposed the renewal of its operational licence by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

“On behalf of the country, we apologise to you. We, again and again, apologise to you. The situation under Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources will change for all of us,” he pleaded.

The president reminded the indigenes that it was the government’s commitment to the development of the Niger Delta that informed the inclusion of the 13 per cent derivation formula in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He pointed out that other additional initiatives put in place to address the peculiar needs of the region include the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Buhari said: “I felt touched when in the address by your leaders, they are asking for a school in 2019 after 40 years of production of oil for this country. I am also saddened to hear that you are producing 45,000 barrels per day for the past 40 years through Shell and yet you are asking for a hospital. We will not just provide only water and school, we will provide complete community life for the entire Belema community.”

Lauding the women, who laid siege to the oil facility for agreeing to vacate the infrastructure, the Nigerian leader assured them that the 2020 budget would be reviewed to adequately cater for the needs of oil-bearing communities.

In his remarks, the Amayanabo of Kula, King Bourdillion Ekine Oko, applauded the president, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, for their intervention.

“We hereby solemnly pronounce that OML 25 facilities, including the Belema field, have been reopened for SPDC, Belemaoil and NNPC operations by the host communities,” the monarch declared.

He expressed the hope that the rapprochement would mark a new beginning for a mutually beneficial relationship.