Archive Amazing story of a rich Island whose people need...

Amazing story of a rich Island whose people need help


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NLNG-plant-at-night-620x330Tt is regarded as the richest Island in the country. It hosts the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited, Mobil Producing Unlimited and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). But,OLUKOREDE YISHAU, who has been to the Island three times, writes that the richness of the Island has benefited the government and a few individuals more than the people. It is feared if the community does not get the help it needs, it will pose future threats.

It has a place in global history. Its name rings bell far and wide. It takes some three hours to access it by water. By air, it is slightly more than 20 minutes. Its soils are swarmed by resources that bring money. But they can’t bring money unless technology beyond the reach of the people are deployed, leaving the Island in no position to tap the resources. So blessed is it that it has no rival in the Niger Delta. One of the three companies operating on its soil has paid dividends of no less than $9 billion to the Federal Government since it began operation some years ago. The others have also paid several billions from what they have earned operating there. Other government agencies have also collected billions of dollars as dues, levies and what have you over the years.

For this regular supply of cash to the federal, state and other purses, its people enjoy uninterrupted power supply at little or no cost. No wonder, the editor of a film ‘Last Flight to Abuja’ chose Bonny Island for the editing of some delicate parts of the movie, which he could not risk with the epileptic power supply in the other areas of the country.It also has access to pipe-borne water.

Many an indigene of the area from which a popular light crude oil got its name, had also benefited from scholarship schemes. And not a few are working in juicy sectors of the economy largely on account of being from the rich Island.

On its soil, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has a huge crude oil export terminal known as the Bonny crude oil terminal – the largest of its kind in Africa.

The facilities have more than doubled the amount of oil it can process and export to 1.25 million barrels a day.

The fully automated system is one of the most technologically advanced terminals in Africa and gives Nigeria the potential to deliver uninterrupted crude oil exports for the next 25 years.

But, it appears that is where the good news ends.

Its traditional ruler, the Amayanabo of Grand Bonny Kingdom, King Edward Dappa Pepple 111, recently spearheaded a pan-Bonny Sustainable Development Conference. At this conference, it was clear to all that the Island could pose a threat to the oil giants operating there and the economy of the country if it does not get the help it needs.

Its traditional ruler, the Amayanabo of Grand Bonny Kingdom, King Edward Dappa Pepple 111, recently spearheaded a pan-Bonny Sustainable Development Conference. At this conference, it was clear to all that the Island could pose a threat to the oil giants operating there and the economy of the country if it does not get the help it needs.

A brochure for the conference noted the wealth of the land. It reads:”The presence of big industries has supported the emergence of critical infrastructure that is capable of driving economic and social transformation. Bonny people have worked with industry stakeholders to put in place a Bonny Development Master Plan to guide orderly development of the Kingdom; however the plan implementation requires Government support and income generation activities which is dearly need.

“Therefore, going forward into the future and the need for next step to achieving sustainable development that can support the speedy growth of the Bonny community, this conference is aimed at providing a platform for all stake holders to rub minds on ways of ensuring that development remains on a sustainable path of growth into the future; inspire the Bonny community to embrace a process for re-orientation and make commitment toward self-reliance for sustainable development in all ramifications.

“This can happen if Bonny in the face of current realities evolve new enabling conditions for investor partnerships, focus on ways and means towards generating activities that improve development in a manner that ensures that all segments of the community own, drive and actively participate and benefit from its implementation.”

One area the community must be helped so that its youths do not become threats to both the companies and the elite is education.

A World Bank consultant, Dr Rosemary Nwangwu, revealed the sorry human capital state of the community.

Dr. Nwangwu said: “The number of teachers in Bonny primary schools is inadequate. There are no teachers even in the core subject areas: English Language, Mathematics and the Sciences. There are 21 public primary schools in Bonny Local Government Area. These 21 schools have a total of 5,949 pupils (male 3010, female 2939) taught by 139 teachers. This gives a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:44 as against the policy stipulated ratio of 1:35.

“The secondary schools are no better staffed. There are four public junior and four public senior secondary schools in the Island…The junior secondary schools have 1,949 students… and are taught by 27 teachers. The senior secondary schools have 1,896 students and are taught by 71 teachers. Also at this level, there are no Mathematics, English Language or Science teachers.”

The result of these, she said, is poor performance in terminal examinations.

Dr. Nwangwu said in the last 10 years, the oldest school in the Island has recorded only 12 per cent pass with five credits in WAEC.

She said: “These young people have been processed into nothingness and are not equipped to do anything. A more dangerous reality for the community is that the young people who are unable to make the pass mark are unable still to get into any other system that can enable them acquire skills. They are lost in the education system and lost to their families in terms of income generation and survival skills. These persons who dropped out from the system cannot help themselves or the system.”

King Pepple said things have to change. He said there is still a long road to travel. He said the time had come to attract more partners to drive its development other than the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited, Shell and Mobil Producing Unlimited.

According to him, the Island must be steered to the shores of development and prosperity for the sake of future generation.

He said: “We raise our voices to governments, the private sector, all international development agencies, all friendly corporate organisations that Bonny is open for business and to work with all well-meaning people to grow a project that we can all be proud of as partners.”

The Executive Director of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Mr Nobel Pepple, said the people must look beyond oil and gas for the development of the community. He said alternatives livelihoods could be found in fishing and agriculture.

This position was also canvassed by the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Bert Ronhaar, who said with the sea in the Island, it can supply fishes to the rest of the world and make money.

A communique at the end of the conference said the community must seek new partners to work with existing ones for its development in the areas of human capital and so on. It also agreed to set up and Economic and Social Development Fund to finance and updated Master Plan, service infrastructural and social development.

SPDC was the first to see the light in Bonny Island. Mobil saw it later. NLNG Limited did not see it until some two decades ago when work started on Africa’s largest LNG plant. They all liked the place and the promise there. The Federal Government, which has interest in all of these ventures, too knows what the country stands to gain from Bonny Island, which hosts the country’s only port of origin.

The people were happy that the companies came. They had good times at the peak of the construction of the companies. The skilled and the unskilled were employed to get the companies ready. But, much of their expectations have not been met.

When work on the NLNG seventh train reaches the peak, thousands will be employed too.

The Federal Government makes billions annually from the area in the form of taxes from the companies operating there. Its joint venture agreement with them ensure dividends pour in in billions of dollars. Its agencies also get taxes.

From the NLNG alone, in which the country invested through the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), it has since 2004 received $9 billion as dividends from the company. Additional $2.2 billion could be made annually when the seventh train of the NLNG is ready.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), a Federal Government agency, also recently got $140 million as maritime duties from NLNG.

June last year, the NLNG ran into stormy waters with the youths. The youths were angry over the absence of Bonny indigenes on the NLNG 2012 Technicians Training and Employment list.

One of the Bonny youths, Thompson Beresiri, said: “This injustice must stop. Our leaders have continued to look the other way while our rights are infringed upon by these companies.

“The issue of local content has been flawed because government has demonstrated lack of political will to tackle the matter head on. However, youths are now prepared to do it their own way to ensure they safeguard their future.”

The Leader of Bonny Youths Federation, Mr. Gift Furo, said: “I don’t want to believe this is true. We have seen the list and have instituted a showdown meeting with the management of NLNG to further know why out of the 33 persons selected no Bonny or Rivers indigene was considered.

“I think it is the right thing to do as a responsible youth body before going further with other options.

“It is painful when you compare the level of development, youth empowerment and employment in other areas where Liquidified Gas plants are located and in Bonny.

“In terms of preserving our environment, NLNG has failed, in terms of helping to cushion the effect of the environmental devastation caused by the emission, it is zero. In terms of employment, training and other empowerment programmes like the present case, they have failed, regrettably this failures are inherent in the face of the fact that Bonny people have sacrificed their health and existence on the alter of dangerous emission.”

He said for the youths to become useful, they must be gainfully employed or trained to attain their full potential.

The youth leader said government at all levels have failed to demonstrate the political will to ensure that the local content law is judiciously implemented by the companies in Niger Delta.

According to him, “companies have been allowed to do things the way they like without recourse to host communities and youths. There is need for government and corporate bodies to ensure that the futures of youths are protected through the assurance of gainful employment after graduation from school.

“Also, sustainable skills acquisition for those not in the academic area will also go along way in checking the vices in the society. If this is not done, the youths who are ambitious by nature will surely feel discontented unleashing the disastrous consequences on the society.”

Mobil and Shell have also run into problems with the youths over spills and so on.

With the right help to develop its land and people, the threats will be mitigated. Without that, there is fire on the mountain. It seems no one is running!


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