Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode on Thursday inaugurated a 45-member Community Relations Committee in Badagry, expressing optimism that it would go a long way to forestall any incidence of environmental degradation, communal disputes and civil disturbances often associated with oil producing areas.
Governor Ambode, who spoke at the inauguration of the Committee at the VIP Chalet in Badagry, said that as much as oil is a major source of revenue in the country, its exploration has created serious environmental challenges affecting health, social and economic activities, sustainable development and ecological balance due to land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation and ecosystem degradation in the oil producing communities.
“These activities amongst others have led to agitations from Communities and Youth Groups leading to disruption of exploration activities, pipeline vandalisation and in extreme cases kidnapping and violence.
“This has made it difficult to conduct the business of oil production smoothly and ensure that the relationships between the oil companies and their host communities remain cordial at all times. This has also affected negotiations for compensations for land acquisition, damages and spills,” he said.
Governor Ambode, therefore, said that Lagos, being the home of Nigeria’s most critical commercial activities and now an oil producing State with the discovery of oil in the Badagry Area of Lagos State; in the Aje Oil Field, OML 113 being operated by Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company, cannot afford to have any community unrests or disruption of peace.
“It is imperative that our oil producing companies and their host communities enjoy a very warm and mutually beneficial relationship.
“Sequel to the aforesaid and the need to create a conducive exploration environment for the Oil Companies as well as having host Communities devoid of rancor to prevent the re-occurrence of the Niger Delta issues in Lagos State, we have constituted a Committee for the Lagos State Oil Producing Areas Relations, cutting across the Oil Producing Communities in Badagry,” the Governor said.
While setting up the committee consisting of representatives of the State and Local Government, the host communities, women and youth, traditional rulers and other stakeholders, Governor Ambode said the Committee would among other things, interface between the host Communities and the Oil Companies in Badagry, as well as coordinate a seamless implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) interventions planned for the Badagry Oil Producing Areas by Oil Producing Companies in Badagry.
He said the Committee would also be saddled with the responsibility of coordinating community and development issues between host Communities, Government and Oil Producing Companies Operating in Badagry.
Besides, Governor Ambode said the Committee would also be expected to ensure peace and harmony between host Communities and Oil Producing Companies in Badagry.
“Our government is committed to creating a conducive environment for all to thrive especially in our budding oil industry. We will always work to protect our people and ensure their improved welfare while at the same time providing an investor-friendly environment.
“On our part, we will take proactive measures to prevent oil spillage and where it happens, quickly move to clean it up according to globally accepted standards. We will also ensure the safety and security of our communities and operators at all times.
Alluding to the fact that the Badagry area was fast becoming a major hub for oil activities in Nigeria, the Governor expressed optimism that the upcoming Badagry Deep Sea Port will provide logistic support for the oil and gas industry and further support the expansion of the economy of this axis thereby making it more viable and livable.
Thanking members of the Committee for accepting to serve and contribute to the development of our State, he charged them to bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to ensure cooperation and collaboration between the communities and the oil companies operating in Badagry.
“This is a tough assignment because it is not easy to mediate and arbitrate. I look forward to receiving the reports of your activities and the progress being made by our communities and oil companies,” he said.
Speaking while inaugurating Olusola Thomas Court House in Badagry, a new six-room court complex named after a former Chief Judge of the State, Governor Ambode said the development was another strong representation of his commitment to the rule of law and social justice, as well as a testimony of the determination to ensure that distance or geographical location is not a barrier to citizens’ access to justice.
He recalled that prior to the construction of the facility, the entire town of Badagry including residents from the Benin Republic border all the way to Okokomaiko were served by only two courts one for Magistrate and other for High Court, which was grossly inadequate, a development he said necessitated the need to embark on the project.
Governor Ambode said the need to construct more court rooms in the axis was also made imperative by the fact that the Badagry axis was fast evolving as a major economic hub in this state with vast potentials especially in tourism and commerce.
“The ongoing transformation of Badagry through infrastructural renewal and development are meant to open up this part for investors who will take advantage of the multi-million oil exploration activity and Deep Sea Port Project, among others.
“As the prospect and prosperity begin to manifest, Badagry will continue to experience influx of people who will engage in different types of economic activities as well as making it a place of resident. The resultant increase in social and economic activities will naturally lead to a corresponding increase in dispute which will require an efficient justice system to resolve as quickly as possible,” he said.
Giving details on the features of the new complex, the Governor said: “The court has been equipped with modern facilities for the comfort of not only judges and magistrates but also everyone including lawyers and members of the public.
“The court has been designed to ensure the welfare and security of personnel and members of the public who have course to be in the chambers of justice with the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras and monitors within the various courtrooms and the entire vicinity of this complex.
“There is a well-equipped Library, exhibit room and conference room facilities for the continued training and retraining of justice personnel assigned to this complex. This facility is also equipped with administrative offices that will service the six courtrooms and also accommodate the Office of Public Defender (OPD) which will continue to provide legal services and advice to the vulnerable.”
Besides, Governor Ambode assured that the bad state of roads leading to Badagry would soon be a thing of the past.
“We have already concluded the contract that takes the road from Eric More to Okokomaiko which is ongoing. So, we are just looking to close the next transaction that takes that 10-lane road from Okokomaiko to Seme Border,” he said.
In her remarks, Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke commended Governor Ambode for his commitment to deliver prompt and efficient service delivery.
While lauding the new court house, the CJ said it was also gratifying that the Governor was in the process of building official quarters for judges and magistrates in Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry judicial divisions, as well as plans to establish commercial court house.