By Ikirine Simeon
EVERYTHING must be done to prevent the return of militancy in the Niger Delta, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said on Tuesday.
The National Assembly, he said, would ensure that host communities’ interests are protected.
Gbajabiamila spoke at a public hearing on “the holistic review of all agreements and memorandum of understanding between oil companies and host communities”.
The Speaker was represented by the Deputy Chief Whip, Nkiruka Onyejeocha.
He said: “Ensuring that the relationship between the oil companies and the host communities is always on an even footing is necessary to guarantee an efficient oil exploration and production.
“Occasional disruption due to unrest has had its impact on our economy.
“It affects our revenue generation and undermines our ability to deliver on our obligations.
“As such, we have a responsibility to prevent those circumstances that, in the past, led to those disruptions.
“Beyond that, we have a further moral duty to protect the communities that have for the past five decades laid the golden egg of the Nigerian state.
“Beyond economic consequences of disaffection between the oil companies and their host communities, there are other national security considerations that are even more severe.
“Militancy in the Niger Delta region has in the recent past spurred an industry of criminality that unsettled the entire fabric of the Nigerian state.
“We emerged from those dark days through the concerted efforts of both the federal and state governments working with a variety of stakeholders.
“Too much was lost to the violence perpetuated, most of which has not and will never be recovered. We must never return to that old story.”
Gbajabiamila urged oil companies to implement their agreements with host communities to avoid complaints.
“Agreements between the oil companies and the host communities define the rights and responsibilities of the parties and contained written assurances that the interest of those communities will always be protected.”