By Samuel OYADONGHA
The KEFFES host communities, an acronym for Koluama I & II, Ekeni, Fish Town, Foropa, Ezetu I &II and Sangana located on the Atlantic fringe of Southern Ijaw and Brass local government areas of Bayelsa State had cause to celebrate last month, when Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, unveiled projects worth N482m in their domain.
The projects sited in these far flung communities which are been taken for granted in the more fortunate urban settlements, could best be described as luxury for the people of the backward settlements.
In spite of their location in the deep mangrove swamp of the delta, and enormous tourism potentials, these oil rich but backward fishing settlements lacks both state and federal presence.
Most of the natives are sea farers whose immediate neighbours are the alluring sea and oil manifold, platform and gas flare furnace.
Though the communities are strategically located in the deep swampy mangrove with enormous potentials, if properly harnessed could have made them a tourist’s destination and source of income to the state and also boost the economy of the local populace.
But sadly, the communities are yet to be linked by road and could only be accessed by water with the result that the natives, most times, prefer to travel to Gabon for business due to its proximity to Yenagoa.
The cottage hospitals at Ezetu 1, Foropa, Koluama 1, and Sangana communities which were built some ten years ago to serve the natives had remained non -functional till date, with result that they are compelled to journey on the turbulent sea to Yenagoa and neighboring Warri to seek for proper medical attention when the need arises.
It was therefore not surprising when the people of the these pre-dominantly fishing settlements, Thursday abandoned their sole trade to witness the inauguration of projects such as teachers’ quarters building with complete furniture, potable water projects, public toilets, concrete foot bridges, community rest house, installation of transformers, concrete jetty and renovated primary school buildings executed by the Keffes Rural Development Foundation, one of the Regional Development Committees under the Chevron Global Memorandum of Understanding, GMoU.
Speaking at the occasion, the Paramount Ruler of Ezetu Pennington Kingdom, King I. N. Igbousa-Oduo X, described the commissioning as a concrete and significant leap in the history of company’s operations in the KEFFES host communities.
Describing the projects as yet another ‘visible expression of commitment of Chevron to the existing cordial relationship with its host communities, he said, “the GMoU model itself, which could be seen as a rebirth of the new Community Relations Approach, has yielded yet another visible expression of the commitment of CNL and her KEFFES host communities that we are witnessing here today and by implication, creating a peaceful business environment for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.”
“We seize this opportunity to convey the warm and appreciative feelings of the people of the KEFFES communities for this great milestone. This milestone is reached as a result of our communities’ commitment to maintain peace in order to achieve sustainable infrastructural development that is relevant to our peoples’ need.”
He lamented the near absence of government in the communities and pleaded with the authorities to invest more in the communities given their disadvantaged position in the distribution of development projects.
In his remarks, the chairman of KEFFES Rural Development Foundation, Mr. Christopher Tuduo, commended Chevron for bankrolling the projects even as he called for increase funding to enable the foundation embark on more development projects that would benefit the communities.
He also called for greater state government and Niger Delta Development Commission participation in the funding of development projects in the area.
Inaugurating the projects, Chevron General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Mr. Femi Odumabo, said the successful implementation of the projects reinforces the GMoU Community Engagement model as a vehicle for sustainable socio-economic development in communities around its operations.
Represented by Elijah Ebikikoro, GMoU Team Lead for Keffes, Odumabo, said, the successes recorded in the implementation of the GMoU in Keffes and in other clusters communities bordering our operations in the Delta region have shown that with support, the communities can drive their development process.”
He described as immense the socio -economic benefits of the community driven GMoU saying, “as a result of the efforts to date, a value chain is coming together.