The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Heineken Lokpobiri, has assured the Bayelsa State Government of the possibility that the revoked licence for OML 46, also known as Atala Oilfield, belonging to the state will be returned to the state.
Lokpobiri, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, gave the assurance during a visit to Governor Douye Diri at the Government House, Yenagoa, on Tuesday.
This was conveyed in a statement issued by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, on Wednesday.
The Federal Government, through the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources, had in controversial circumstances revoked the licence in April 2020 when another son of the state, Timipre Sylva, was the minister of state for petroleum resources.
Lokpobiri expressed regrets that the Atala oilfield, a common patrimony of the state, was taken away, saying he would do everything within his power to bring back the asset.
He explained that his visit was to seek collaboration with the state government to address issues concerning Bayelsa and for the state to reap the dividends of democracy.
The minister congratulated Diri on his re-election and sought the government’s partnership to curb pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.
He said the oil theft menace had resulted in the reduction of revenue from the Federation Account to oil-producing states, adding that Bayelsa had zero derivation for about four months in 2023.
Lokpobiri, also expressed concern over the level of pollution caused by illegal bunkering activities, noting that if the trend was not checked, it could be an existential threat.
He said, “Bayelsa State is more polluted than Ogoni in Rivers State and we are the only people that can put a stop to it. We need to do something to protect our water and land resources.
“It is also important to note that illegal refineries affect the income of our state. The governor can attest to the fact that derivation money has been dwindling. There was zero derivation for months. We are changing our security architecture to one that could be more effective. So, we need to work together to change the narrative.”
The Bayelsa governor congratulated Lokpobiri on his appointment and appreciated President Bola Tinubu for appointing a worthy son of Bayelsa as minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
Diri assured the apex government of his administration’s preparedness to partner with it to check oil theft and illegal bunkering, which had adversely affected the ecosystem.
He stressed the need to involve governors of the Nigeria Delta states working together to stamp out the menace.
He said, “We want to see the positive impact of your office. We are on a new journey to change the trajectory of your office. That is why l am pained that it was in your time that the office was balkanized. Bayelsa has more gas than oil. So we would have been happier if you were presiding over gas as well.
“We need more exchange of ideas. Today, you have given us hope. You have assured me that Atala oilfield will come back to Bayelsa.
“I believe that you will right a lot of wrongs done to our people. No Bayelsa man has an oil mining licence and the only one we had was taken away by our own son.”
While urging Lokpobiri to partner with the state government to explore ways of attracting development to the state, Diri bemoaned the situation where the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company in Bonny, Rivers State, receives 60% of its gas from Bayelsa but the company pays tax to Rivers.
He noted that Bayelsa was deprived of legitimate income and taxes while being erroneously rated as financially insolvent.
Diri restated his position that the real viability of states can only be determined when the country practises fiscal federalism and resource control.
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