Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has warned Nigerians of the challenges the country would face in the future if it continues to depend on oil for income.
Mr. Osinbajo, while speaking in Gbaramatu kingdom during a visit to Delta State on Monday, said that countries who buy oil from Nigeria are now devising alternative means of power such as solar and wind energy.
Therefore, “We must be smart and act intelligently and fast,” he said.
Mr. Osinbajo’s visit on Monday is part of his peace tour across oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
The visits are part of the ongoing efforts of the Buhari administration to achieve a permanent resolution of the Niger Delta crisis which in 2016 reduced Nigeria’s oil output y half.
The vice president, who spoke to an enlarged crowd after a closed-door meeting with the Gbaramatu leaders at the palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom, Oboro Gbaraun II, said fire incidents that arose from pipeline vandalisation have killed thousands of people.
“In 2013 alone, there are over 3700 incidents of pipeline vandalisation. From January to June 2016, there were over 1447 incidents of vandalisation.
“The Niger Delta of today is one where aside environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents arising from breaching of the pipelines.
“To prepare for a great future for the Gbaramatu kingdom, three things must happen: we must recognise the unique environmental challenges the Niger Delta is facing, we must also recognise that the Niger Delta is a special economic zone for this nation so we must treat it as a special development zone.
“This means the federal government, state government, National Assembly, NDDC, civil societies representing Niger Delta must sit together and develop a plan for rapid development.
“There is no excuse for not planning together. The federal government cannot solve the problem of Niger Delta. It is impossible for the FG to do it alone. The state should devote substantial portion of its budget to this special project,” Mr. Osinbajo said.
He added that the PAN Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has submitted a concise list of 16 dialogue issues that will be extremely helpful in ascertaining the key development priorities.
“It is an important working document that represents an excellent road map to the future of Niger Delta,” the law professor said.
Mr. Osinbajo noted that the critical issue the federal government is concerned with is infrastructure.
“In the 2017 budget, we have provided for the commencement of the Lagos – Calabar rail way which will go through Delta. We are working with the Chinese on this project.
“When I leave here we will visit the site of the Maritime University. The president has directed the ministry of petroleum to work quick to see to the realisation of all of the objectives of implementing this crucial educational institution.
“Establishing this university has passed the second reading in the National Assembly and I know we have the commitment of the members of the national assembly to fast track this bill so that the maritime school will be completed as soon as possible,” he added.
The Maritime University is expected to commence fully in September.
Mr. Osinbajo said the university and other government projects cannot work without adequate revenue which is being hampered by pipeline vandalisation and militancy in the region.
“If there is no revenue, we are deceiving ourselves. There must be revenue and it can only come when there is peace. There should be commitment to peace.”
The Vice President also spoke on the necessary cleanup of contaminated oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
“The Ogoni cleanup has been flagged off. For the cleanup not be a waste of money, we must enforce strict environmental standard for the oil producing companies. And all our communities must prevent vandalisation which is also a major source of environmental degradation.”
In elaborating his warning for Nigeria to prepare for a future where oil could be irrelevant, Mr. Osinbajo said Nigerians must “recognise that the future is full of challenges for the oil industry.”
“In another 20 to 30 years, our oil won’t be as precious as it is today and that is reality,” he said.
“America has stopped buying oil from us. All the countries of Asia that buy oil from us are building alternative means of power, China and Japan are developing electric cars. In fact, Japan has more charging stations than petrol stations. Solar power is getting cheaper.
“We must be smart we must act intelligently and fast,” Mr. Osinbajo said.