By Egufe Yafugborhi
HOST communities to Oil Mining Lease (OML) 58, operated by Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNG), have welcomed the company’s readiness to accord the communities’ youths higher stakes to secure its oil and gas assets against vandalism.
The French oil giant at a workshop weekend in Ahoada, Ahoada East Local Government Area (LGA), Rivers state on Stopping Vandalism in OML 58, said the new approach is to engage and reward host communities youths in taking responsibility to secure assets in their domain.
Obinna Ofoezie, General Manager, Community Affairs, Project and Development, TEPNG, represented by Nwokoezi Ikoro, noted that unending willful or inadvertent sabotage of oil and gas assets continuous to cost Nigeria colossal economic loss.
“Over the years the trend has also aggravated environmental degradation, making it impossible for rural dwellers to engage in sustainable farming and fishing as their traditional mainstay”, he further noted.
Resource person on the workshop, Dr. Andy Uzor, said, “Since the deployment of Joint Task Force (JTF), the Navy, resort to digging pipelines deep underground have not eradicated vandalism, and even consideration of use of drones will not fully curtail the criminality, it’s time to engage the communities.
“It’s often said that vandalism on oil installations can hardly succeed without insiders within. Engaging the community youths will not only give them a sense of ownership and stakes sharing in guarding the facilities.
“Their leaders would also appeal to the conscience all to shun involvement in vandalism. So it’s a win-win model that benefits both Total in safeguarding their assets and the communities in having those engaged rewarded while the environment is also saved from pollution associated with vandalism.”
Ikechukwu Lucky, Rumuekpe Youth Chairman, one of the participants at the workshop said, “We (Community youths) are ready to cooperate with Total to have common purpose in stemming vandalism in the operating environment.
“We also expect Total to emulate such pipeline surveillance model where further rewards or awards are given to communities which experience vandalism incidents free atmosphere within a given period, like quarterly, to encourage community youths engaged to be more committed to duty in protecting the assets.”