-Blank NEWS Online (NIGERIA) -Edited By Albert OGRAKA:
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Bashorun Askia Ogieh FCNA, CrFA, speaks on the Impact of COVID-19 on Oil Bearing Communities of the Niger Delta region and other sundry issues on PLUS TV, Dstv Channel 408.
Read Excerpts of the Interview:
What has been the impact of Covid-19 in the production of oil in the Niger-Delta region?
The Covid-19 has not affected the production of oil significantly, though but what we now have is a glut in the oil market because we are now producing oil and there is no market for it, so we have quite a number of vessels that are out there on the high seas and no buyers. That is going to affect the economy of the Niger-Delta area and indeed the entire Nation.
What help is DESOPADEC rendering to communities in these difficult times?
We’ve been involved in the giving outof palliatives to the vulnerables in our midst, those whose businesses have been terribly affected; the artisans, Keke riders, among others who are living on day-to-day business. I know with the lockdown we experienced in the past few weeks, these people were unable to go about their businesses and they became vulnerable to hunger, so as a Commission, members of the Board were all involved in the provision of certain level of palliatives in terms of food items and some other support for these persons across our mandate areas, which is a larger part of the state.
What are the plans in terms of revamping business activities?
Right now the oil prices are quite low and that is being complicated now with low benchmark of $20 for a barrel and we know that the cost of production of oil in our country is pretty high That’s going to leave government with very lean revenue and you know our own Commission is essentially involved in the utilization of the 50% derivative element of our state revenue and that is what comes to us. What is means now is that with low revenue coming from oil, we may not be able to have enough revenue to be able to prosecute the process of providing infastructure and other programmes that was supposed to ameliorate the sufferings of people of the oil producing or oil bearing communities of the state because our action of providing infastructure in areas of the gaps, that prevail, has actually made the once restive Niger Delta area to be very friendly to the production of oil and economic activities have barely picked up but now we are having this clogs and now that this pandemic has come, it’s quite unfortunate but we are going to do everything within our power to make sure we remain there for the people and provide the necessary infastructure for them and even develop them in terms of human capital and then see how we can empower them to start off again in their businesses.
What has the been the response of the people in terms of the palliatives being provided so far?
It’s been very wonderful. They’ve been very receptive of the idea. They know that things are not easy and for an agency as ours to come together using all the apparatus we have to be able to come out to help and even give them help tips, as health education in terms of what they will do to ensure that this pandemic do not spread. They’ve been very appreciative and I can see they like it a lot. They’ve applauded all our tremendous role and we are quite happy.
Did you layoff any staff at this point?
No, right now we are running skeletal service’s because of the social distancing policy of government even though we are open but so far so good by the way we have have structured our finances we will remain afloat and we are not going to drop any staff whatsoever and we are going to keep on to our responsibility of paying salaries and allowances as if there were no Covid because we cannot afford to throw more people to the labour market at this critical time. So we are doing everything possible to ensure that our staff are well catered for. And by the grace of God we are not going to layoff any staff at all, not even one
In terms of operation, what should we expect from you differently post Covid 19 and what has this particular experience taught DESOPADEC?
We are likely going to focus very well on the issue of environment and health education and provision of Health Services to our various areas and by the way, now that the funds are not going to be flowing so high we intend to curtail our expenditure and ensure that those items that are very critical, the areas of critical needs are the areas that we are going to intervene so that we can manage our finances for the betterment of the people.