By Emma Amaize
GOVERNOR Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State must be wondering by now why some people are bent on sabotaging his efforts to put behind the ugly episode in which the facilities of facilities of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chevron Nigeria Limited and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in the state were destroyed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) between May and June.
Before the militant group declared its subsisting 60-day ceasefire, it threatened to revisit any of the facilities that the government or oil companies dared to repair while the issues that led to the face-off with the Joint Task Force on the Niger-Delta had not been addressed.
And truly, it bombed a facility belonging to the Chevron, which the company obstinately repaired. Leaders of Gbaramatu kingdom also took umbrage that the Federal Government was desperate to effect repairs on the damaged pipelines, but, was not desperate to repair the homes of the people that were destroyed by soldiers for them to return home.
Some uninformed Ijaw indigenes accused Dr. Uduaghan of not doing much to ensure the return of the people to their communities, but, unknown to them the governor has their interest at heart and was liaising with the authorities of the JTF, which declared a Cordon and Search operation in Gbaramatu kingdom and banned movement on the waterways of the state to lift the siege.
When eventually the discussions sailed through, Governor Uduaghan announced government’s plan to relocate the displaced persons from their camp in Ogbe-Ijoh back to their communities and then came the issue of repairs of the damaged facilities.
The most controversial of them at the moment is the Escravos-Lagos gas pipeline.Â The youths and elders of Gbaramatu kingdom are currently embroiled in a row over patronages from the contractor, while some indigenous contractors are also slugging out the local content package of the repair works with the company doing the job.
The Escravos-Lagos gas pipeline is a key component of the federal government’s plan to meet the target of 6000 megawatts, expected to stabilize power supply in the country by December 2009 and its non-operation at this stage is quite worrisome to the government.
Governor Uduaghan understands this point clearly and that was why he summoned a stakeholders’ meeting with Gbaramatu elders and chiefs, officers of the Joint Task Force, the chairman of Warri South- West local government area, Mr George Ekpemuokpolo and oil companies to sort out the grey areas, early August.
At the meeting, he stressed the necessity for congenial atmosphere for repairs to be effected by the contractor, De Wayle’s International limited. He stated that oil giants, Shell and Chevron have already embarked on the repairs of their damaged pipelines and assured the contractor that adequate security would be provided by the JTF.
He said government was aware that power was a critical issue and the worsening situation was leading to a shortfall in gas production, occasioned by the vandalisation of pipelines in the aftermath of the May 13, 2009 military bombardment of Gbaramatu kingdom. NNPC representative at the meeting, Engr. Voka Mukoro, disclosed that the nation was loosing 180 million cubic feet of gas daily as result of the damage to the EscravosÂ Lagos Pipeline.
Tebu-Biri youths spit fire
The governor left the meeting believing that the bone of contention had been resolved, but, lately, a youth group, identified as the Tebu-Biri Youths Federated in Gbaramatu kingdom has also threatened to disrupt the ongoing repairs on the Escravos-Lagos gas pipelineif the contractor, De Wayles International Limited did not provide job slots of unemployed youths in the area and also negotiate with them.
The chairman of the group, Mike Itima and the spokesman, Nanakumo Boi said the contractor, officials of the Nigeria National Corporation and the Nigeria Gas Company relegated the youths in the arrangements for the repairs of the pipeline, vowing that they would stop the project.
It was learnt that Governor Uduaghan put his finger on a beneficial arrangement to the parties at the meeting in question but the Tebu-Biri youths claimed they were sidetracked. Investigation showed that the JTF soldiers were fully deployedÂ to ensure that the contractor was not harassed, but,Â the fear is that the pipeline may be vandalizedÂ if the grievances of the youths were not addressed.
Also, a youth leader in the area, Chief Moses Bebenimibo has implored the federal government and JTF to compel the main contractor handling the repairs of the Escravos gas pipeline to involve indigenous contractors to prevent the repairs running into troubled waters.
Speaking in Warri, Chief Bebenimibo who is the financial secretary of Kunukunuma community in Gbaramatu kingdom said, “I want the Federal Government and the JTF to compel the contractor to embrace the local content so that local contractors from the area will participate fully in the repairs. If indigenous contractors are involved, there will be food on the table and nothing will threaten the process”.
According to him, â€œThose from the Gbaramatu kingdom collaborating with the main contractor to enslave our people should desist from such act capable of stalling the repair of the pipeline.
Indigenous contractors should participate – Bebenimibo
An indigenous contractor, Chief Moses Bebenimibo who spoke to Sweet Crude implored the federal government and JTF to compel the contractor handling the repairs of the Escravos-Lagos gas pipeline to involve indigenous contractors to prevent the repairs running into troubled waters. Bebenimibo who is the financial secretary of Kunukunuma community in Gbaramatu kingdom appealed to the federal government and JTF to prevail on all the contractors for the pipeline repairs to adhere to the local content.