By Sam Ekpe
Monday, November 6, 2017 was a special day in the Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny in Rivers State. It was the day the Federal Government, though the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, interacted with the Major House in Port Harcourt.
The Federal Controller of Works in Rivers State, Engr. Nebolisa Anako, led a delegation, including Engrs. Udo, Ekong and two others, on an interactive session with the Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny, a major community to be impacted by the construction of the Bodo-Ataba- Bonny Link Road, flagged off on October 12, 2017 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
It will be recalled that during the flag off ceremony, the Major House accused the Bonny Council of Chiefs and Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Company (NLNG) of sidelining it notwithstanding being the most impacted and the largest cluster community in the project.
The leader of the group, Prof. Jasper Jumbo, who hailed the Federal Government for the project, wondered why the Jumbo Major House would be excluded from the flag off, even after receiving invitation from the Office of the Minister of Power Works and Housing. He alleged that the move was an attempt to deny them their God-given rights in Bonny LGA.
He further alleged that, despite the fact that the Federal Controller of Works in Port Harcourt confirmed that their names were forwarded to Abuja for invitation to the flag off to be issued to them, the invitation did not come, probably because the Jumbo Major House was in court with the NLNG.
Apparently to disabuse the minds of the leaders and members of the Bonny Major House of ill-feelings towards or malice against them, the Federal Ministry of Works representative held a meeting with the House on the said day.
The interactive session was held at Nkpume Chineke Estate, an expansive office and residence of Prof. Jasper Jumbo in Port Harcourt.
Banners with the ninscription, Welcome, were mounted at different locations in the area by groups including the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Eastern Zone Executive.
In this welcome address, Prof Jumbo gave a historical background of the project when, in 2002, he led a delegation of 136 Niger Deltas to an audience with former President Obasanjo. OBJ then directed that the construction of a road to Jasper’s hometown should commence within two weeks.
Regrettably, the road project was abandoned afterwards.
The Jumbo Major House also demanded that 40% of indigenes from their directly impacted cluster communities be employed in the new project and they also be engaged in dredging works, building materials and security contracts. The House then handed over to Engr. Anako a list of members of the Jumbo Major House the Federal Ministry of Works and Julius Berger must liaise with as representing them on the road project.
Anako disclosed that the contract was initiated by the last administration in 2014 for N120 billion to be shared on equal contribution by the Federal Government and the NLNG but lack of funds stalled the continuation.
He assured that the Environmental Impact Assessment Exercise must be carried out and that compensation will be paid to the communities affected on the project route
It is hoped that, having consulted with the Jumbo Major House and other stakeholders in the Bodo-Bonny project, all issues about the successful execution of this impactful project in the Niger Delta for ¦ 126 billion will be addressed, to bring government closer to the people, the goose that lays the golden eggs for the nation.
On its part, the NLNG should do whatever it can to be at peace with its host communities. So also should the construction giant Julius Berger. These companies, along with the Jumbo Major House and other communities involved in this gigantic project, must embrace peace to enjoy the benefits of this road which will significantly improve the social and economic infrastructure of the area.
- Ekpe, a former aide to Dr K.O. Mbadiwe, Presidential Adviser in the Second Republic, is a media and public affairs consultant .