UGBORODO- FORMER Secretary, Ugborodo Community Trust, Ugborodo, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, Pastor Benson Babine, says the recent release of N368 million out of about N2 billion owed the community by Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, contractor, JAD Catering Services, will not stop the resolve by concerned stakeholders to throw out the company.
Speaking on the protest against the company in Lagos instead of Escravos, he said: “This protest has nothing to do with leadership dispute in Ugborodo right now; there is no tangible leadership dispute in Ugborodo now. What led to this protest is the default of JAD Catering Services on the contractual agreement we had in 2009, which came in place when the community recommended JAD for the award of that catering service.”
Where ESS went astray
“I was the secretary of the Trust and we wrote to Chevron and NAPIMS for JAD to be awarded that job. Before that time, a company known as ESS was doing the catering service, but ESS was not listening, employing or doing anything for the Ugborodo community, neither did ESS strengthen meaningful relationship with the community and they did the job for like six years.
“When the Nigeria Local Content law came into place, the community approached them for recognition to be part of their operations, but they did not listen to the community claiming that Chevron told them not to listen to us as Ugborodo Community Trust. This was what led to the community stating that they cannot do the job again,” he said.
But before we took the job from them, we invited them for a meeting so that it would not look like we did not talk to them here in Warri. Again, they insisted that they have been instructed by Chevron not to listen to us.”
Babine added: “So, there and then, I and others on behalf of the community told them that we would not allow ESS to do that work again. If not, they actually won the bid for the job then, but we insisted that they cannot come into the yard to do that job because they have refused to listen to us.”
JAD didn’t win the contract
According to him: “JAD then did not win the contract, they actually had a higher bid more than ESS, but they agreed that they would do whatever it is the community wants JAD to do. So based on this, we agreed and even staged a protest at the community level in JAD’s favour so that the company would be recognised and given the job by Chevron. This was how we recommended JAD for the job.”
“After JAD got the job in 2009, we entered into an MoU. As secretary, I was part of the meeting and in the MoU in which basic things were agreed upon, which was that they were to employ three categories of people, namely skilled, unskilled, semiskilled and a definite amount be paid to the community based on the service of food per person per day as well as supply of some materials. This was signed and JAD took over the job.
“JAD actually started paying in January 2009 up to July 2011, though there was still some hanky-panky they were doing during this period because we told them that we want to know how many people they were feeding per day precisely so that as they are bringing the community’s returns, we could verify that no party was being shortchanged.
“But they were not giving us what we called payment advice or payment notice. No accountability. They could just bring N5million for a month without anything to show on how they came about that amount and I, as Community Trust Secretary, asked why, and they refused,” he said.
The ex-scribe explained: “In 2013 when the Trust I was serving as secretary was ending in 2014, I told the then chairman that it would not be good that we leave office without knowing how much JAD owes us. Based on this, I wrote a letter to JAD in July 2013 to give us an update but the chairman advised that we wait till October 2013 after which we wrote the letter to the company.”
Fresh bid, antics
“A week after, I called JAD’s Managing Director, Jaffal Sadiq, that we were yet to get a reply from them as regards the letter. Till date, we (the community) have not got any response from them on that. So with the expiration of the contract last year, 2017, we got wind of it and JAD’s ploy to embark on a fresh tender bidding. ESS and about seven other companies came for the bidding, including JAD, apparently assuming that it still has the backing of the community and bid very high.
‘We told them no. Personally, even though I do not hold an executive position anymore, I am a principal member of the Trust, who is abreast with the situation and that the company has not paid anything to the community since August 2011, till date, yet they want to mobilise the community again to embark on a protest for them despite their high bidding, so we told them no, that the community will not embark on such and if we must do, the intended protest would be such that must be against them,” he disclosed.
Babine added: “When JAD heard that, they quickly ran and paid N368 million March ending, but based on my calculation, the money owed the community is close to N2 billion, yet they expected the community to protest in their favour. And some folks in the community upon hearing the amount felt it was big money and that we should on that notion back JAD for the contract, but we told them that the company has not even paid half of the money. So this is the point some of us vowed that we would take JAD up for it.”
On the legal action instituted against the company and the community taking its protest against JAD to Lagos, he said: “We took the issue to court for JAD to come and give account. Pending the hearing of the suit, the company started lobbying top Chevron and NAPIMS officials to get back the job, so we asked ourselves, how can we bring our disapproval to the attention of those officials in Lagos? That was how we conceived the idea of the protest in Lagos instead of Escravos because we believe JAD would use its connection and power to subdue the protest and its intended impact.
“In essence, we went to Lagos for the protest because we want Chevron and NAPIMS to know that JAD does not have the backing of the community. There should be no more extension for JAD as regards the job, for them to know that this contractor is owing us so much money. Since JAD got the job, her management has not visited the community to see how the community is faring, neither have they embarked on any form of corporate social responsibility.
“I cannot see the reason why JAD is defaulting in the payment to the community, though in 2011 one individual during our second term in office got angry and placed an injunction in the community account that we, who are executives of the Trust should not operate the account. That development did not state that money should not be paid in, but this was the excuse JAD gave earlier on why they stopped paying,” he stated.