Until few years ago, the job of securing the oil pipelines was the responsibility of security agents like the Police, Military and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
But when the security agents were overwhelmed by the constant destruction of the oil pipelines by the militant groups, the government has no option but to engage the service of other security agents like Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), to secure the pipelines. The contract was awarded in April 2015 before it was terminated by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in June the same year.
The militant groups who were not impressed by federal government and oil companies handling of development in the Niger-Delta communities resorted to blowing of oil pipelines to protest the neglect of the area by authorities concern.
However, the award of the contract has generated a lot of controversy, while Dr. Frederick Fasehun, founder of OPC has claimed that the present All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by President Muhammadu Buhari which awarded the contract has refused to pay the group, the federal government denied the claim.
He said that the Buhari administration contracted his group to secure the waterways but has refused to pay almost two years after.
He also denied the allegations that it was former President Goodluck Jonathan that awarded the contract to his group.
Fasehun also blasted Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, who recently said former President Jonathan owed the group whopping sums which the present administration has paid.
“Did he repeat that statement again? When he said that before the 2015 elections, we started calling him Lai, the liar, and he became popular as a liar.
“There are credible ministers and there are ministers that are not credible. We have just left court. We went to court with the government of this nation that we worked for them guarding the pipelines.
“We left the pipelines about two years ago and we were yet to be paid a kobo. We had to go to arbitration before they considered us for payment.
Nobody has even benefited from that payment yet because it was paid into the bank through e-payment. So, where did the minister get the documentary evidence that we have been paid?” Fasehun queried.
He further stated that it was the APC administration that employed the OPC.
“The Jonathan administration did not give us any job. It was this current APC government led by President Muhammadu Buhari that gave us the job.
“I believe the minister of information should be well informed. But, I am surprised that the current minister of information has started telling lies all over the place.
“He said we were paid N2.8 billion. In developing countries, ministers of information are propagandists; they are not true informers.
“True information is part of development. But here, our people don’t dish out true information to the people. They resort to propaganda to sustain the government.
“A good minister of information, as the spokesperson of the Federal Government, will tell the truth to the people at all times. If you don’t dish out the truth, of course, you are a liar and your government is a lying government.”
However, speaking with INDEPENDENT, Lai Mohammed denied the existence of any contract between the government and OPC.
“It is absolutely false. We didn’t award any contract to them. I just spoke with the director general of NIMASA now and he said there is nothing like that. Our government will never engage in such”, he said.
But Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator of OPC while speaking to journalists some years in 2015 when the contract was awarded, admitted that he, Fasehun, and another militant leader from Ondo State were given multi billion naira contracts to protect pipelines.
He said, “They alleged that some ethnic militia collected nine billion, what I know is that President Goodluck Jonathan gave us a contract to protect pipeline and in that pipeline contract, the analysis is that Nigeria is losing 1.3 trillion naira every year to vandals. And when you see how much they will pay us for a year, in six zones- we have three zones in south west, three in South-South. I have only one in South-West; Dr. Fasehun has one and another guy in Ondo has one.
“The entire money NNPC will spend for us to protect the pipeline is not up to four billion for the six zones. You know what happened, they intentionally wrote the propaganda to affect the rally of last Monday and at the same time, and they haven’t given us a dime for the contract. President Jonathan has not given us money; we are just planning on how to start the job now. You cannot get money; it’s not a contract of buying something.”
The cancellation of the contract observers believe contributed to the destruction of oil pipelines between the third and fourth quarters of 2015 as the country’s oil production plummeted to a 22-year low.
The cancellation of the contract which came at the beginning of the present administration may not be unconnected with the new administration to cut down expenses.
It was also observed that the decision stemmed from the conviction of the new administration that the contract awarded at the twilight of the last administration was politically motivated.
They claimed that it was done by former President Jonathan to get the support of OPC and other groups in the last presidential election. But the decision was seen as unwise in some circles as what Nigeria lost in terms of oil revenue within the period of attack was more than what the government would have spent of pipelines surveillance.
Politics – Independent Newspapers