By Emmanuel Nduka
A group hiding under the platform of Host Communities of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Producing Area (HOSTCOM) Bayelsa State Chapter, has failed in its latest attempt to blackmail the Engr Simbi Wabote-led Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
The group led by one Boma Kerekebunah, in an interview recently granted to some sections of the media, mischievously claimed that the NCDMB reneged on its promise to train 1,000 youths on skill acquisition.
According to Kerekebunah, they resorted to holding series of protest at the Nigerian Content Towers, Yenagoa, after the Board refused further meetings with the group, citing that the group had a case with another faction (HOSTCON) before a competent court of jurisdiction.
What The Group Said
The self-acclaimed HOSTCOM Chairman and a Paramount Ruler in Gbanraun Clan of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, had said:
“The protest you are seeing today is based on the agreement we had. In 2019, we wrote a letter to the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to train our youths on skills acquisition. Of course we all know that it is the social responsibility of the Nigerian Content Board to train youths. To that effect, we had a meeting in 2019 which was published in the Local Content Magazine. They told us many things. They wrote us many letters in 2019.
“They promised to train our boys. After that, they complained of COVID-19. They also told us that the money to train our youths is in the senate budget. They told us that the budgetary provision for 2019 has been expended and that it is going to be included in the 2020/2021 budget. So, we waited. After the National Assembly had approved the budget to train our people, they started telling us stories again. One of their excuses was that they won’t deal with us anymore because we have a court case with our splinter group, HOSCON”.
The group, however shot itself in the foot when it agreed to the massive impact of the NCDMB when it stated that: “It seems you have not been following up with the activities of the NCDMB in recent times. I will give you some statistics that will shock you. For instance, NCDMB has trained hundreds and thousands of youth”, with the argument being that these youths were from “far away Northern Nigeria”.
The group also chose to look away from the glaring reality that the Board has done so much for Bayelsa State, up to the extent that the State Government now sees the NCDMB as an alternative to government.
Heritage Times recalls that the Bayelsa State Government had in the past, approached NCDMB for road constructions and other major projects, including provision of uninterrupted power supply to key offices of the Bayelsa State Government.
Also, the Board cannot deal with factional leadership, especially with regards to international best practices. Therefore, the warring factions may choose to resolve their differences, and move away from dragging the NCDMB any further.
While the activities of these elements has not in any way affected the activities of the NCDMB, the groups should also learn from the incident that transpired in Warri, where all the multinationals left, and till date, the city has not been able to recover from the economic downturn that ensued.
Reacting to rumoured reports that the NCDMB has been put under pressure by the group and other stakeholders to relocate its headquarters to somewhere else, the Board in a statement last Monday by its General Manager, Corporate Communications/Zonal Coordination, Engr. Ginah. O. Ginah, noted that though there has been unwarranted protest at the headquarters, those were not sufficient grounds to relocate.
“Admittedly, there has been unwarranted and disruptive protests and disturbances at the 17-storey Nigerian Content Tower – the Board’s head ofﬁce. However, the management of NCDMB recognizes that individuals and groups have the right to express their feelings and genuine grievances in civil and responsible manners.
“The issues do not constitute sufﬁcient grounds to contemplate or yield to any call to relocate the Headquarters of the Board, considering that the people of the Niger Delta Region have consistently demanded for oil producing companies to relocate their headquarters to the region.
“The position of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Development (NOGlCD) Act establishing our agency is clear and unambiguous about where our head ofﬁce should be. The Board will abide by the express stipulations of the Act.
“The Board, therefore distanced itself from any call or purported call for relocation,” the NCDMB maintained.
While maintaining that it is a federal agency and that its activities and programs must impact every part of the country, the Board said it turned down the bogus list of the HOSTCOM “as there is no budget to accommodate such an unreasonable demand. Contrary to HOSTCOM’s false assertion, the Board did not at any time agree to train 1000 persons submitted by HOSTCOM”.
“The NOGICD Act and the work of NCDMB is to cater for the entire country, not narrow sectional interest. NCDMB is not obligated to grant or accede to every request or demand from members of the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas in Bayelsa State or any group for that matter.
“Since inception, NCDMB Board has taken special interest in the development of Bayelsa State and its indigenes to such a point that other states in the region have continued to accuse the Board of bias, favoring Bayelsa State more than all the other oil producing states.
“In line with the Board’s determination to spur rapid development of the State and indigenes, the Board has cited several strategic projects in different parts of Bayelsa State, and actively worked to maintain healthy relationship with the communities hosting our projects. There’s hardly any incidence of downtime or disruption of our operations by our host communities,” the Board added.