BEVERLY HILLS, May 2, (THEWILL) – Members of the House of Representatives from the Niger Delta region on Tuesday staged a walkout from plenary over the non-passage of a motion for the relocation of the operational and administrative offices of multinational oil majors to the region.
This was after the motion brought by Goodluck Opiah (PDP, Imo) failed to sail through with most of the lawmakers from mostly oil-producing states in the Niger Delta, including those from the South-East geo-political zones, quietly stepping aside, leaving behind only a few principal officers among them.
In what seemed like a show of solidarity, few lawmakers from the North-East and North-West joined their southern counterparts to step out of the green chamber, leaving out members from the South-West geopolitical zone.
Opiah had sponsored a motion entitled, ‘Calling Oil Companies to Establish Operational and Administrative Offices in the Niger Delta Area where they Engage in Exploration and Exploitation.’
He warned that if no urgent action is taken in this respect, the problem will defeat efforts of the government to ensure peace in the Niger Delta and peaceful coexistence between the host communities and the oil companies.
He argued that “establishment of those offices outside the areas of operations of the companies account for adoption of policies and taking of decisions that are in the main inconsiderate of the real effects of their exploratory and exploitative activities in those communities, such as pollution, environmental hazards and degradation.”
In an ensuing heated debate which ended in the rejection of the motion, the lawmakers laboured to convince their colleagues to compel oil companies to relocate their administrative headquarters to the Niger Delta in the interest of the country.
The move, however, was vehemently opposed by the other members of the House who insisted that it would be unconstitutional to force such relocation on the companies given that the law allows free movement of persons, goods and services.
Contributing to the debate, Anayo Anebe (PDP, Anambra), noted that the companies’ administrative offices should be located in the host communities because that is where the resources they are using to stay in business are located.
“The motion is for the interest of Nigeria; administrative offices should be sited in the region where they collect their raw materials for production,” he said.
Countering Anebe’s argument, however, House majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), argued that it is not right to direct companies to relocate to where they are not ready to move to.
He stated that “it is very important to look at this issue very seriously to distinguish between operational and administrative offices.”
Another opposing view on the motion came from Jide Jimoh (APC, Lagos), who advised that issues of such importance should not be handled with sentiment or parochialism.
Intervening on the matter, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara held that “as a businessman, I cannot be forced to site my business where I know it’s not safe.”
When the motion was eventually put to voice vote by the Speaker, those who said ‘nay’ prevailed, leading to the walkout.