ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State government on Thursday called on the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to give its hosts and other oil bearing communities a sense of belonging in the implementation of its programmes and projects.
Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo made the call at a meeting with the paramount ruler, chiefs and other stakeholders of Elebele Community in Ogbia Local Government Area, at his office in Government House, Yenagoa.
Ewhrudjakpo, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr Doubara Atasi, advised the NCDMB management board to be exemplary in its conduct and be properly guided by the local content Act in the areas of employment and corporate social responsibility.
He said a situation where the corporate institutions turn a deaf ear to genuine complaints from their host communities would not promote cordial industrial relations but rather engender the already existing feeling of exclusion and disillusionment in the people.
While thanking the Elebele community for their maturity and peaceful disposition, Ewhrudjakpo, however, disclosed that efforts were being made by NCDMB to extend power supply from its gas power plant to Elebele.
He said: “I want to thank the Elebele community for the mature manner you have conducted yourselves. People now block major roads at the slightest provocation to express their grievances, but you have not done that.
“The NCDMB should proactively engage communities where its facilities are located in line with the local content act that guides its establishment and operations. That is the best way to forestall protests and social unrest.”
The deputy governor stressed the need for other communities to emulate Elebele in the pursuit of their interests by engaging in meaningful dialogue and not to violate the rights of other people on the alter of protest..
Responding to the issue of the Bayelsa State Polytechnic, Aleibiri, currently operating from Elebele, Ewhrudjakpo directed the Commissioner for Education, Dr. Gentle Emelah, to redesign the signboard of the institution to reflect Elebele as its temporary site.
He also promised that the government would look into the issue of compensation for the various portions of land acquired from the community for the 16 Brigade, Nigerian Army, and the ongoing AIT-Elebele-Igbogene Ring Road projects.
On the complaints levelled against the concessionaire of the state-owned Bayelsa Palm, Senator Ewhrudjakpo also directed the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. David Alagoa, to convene a meeting between Elebele and the company and report back to government in three weeks.
Speaking earlier, the Paramount Ruler of Elebele Community, His Royal Highness, Chief Osene David Osene, alleged that the NCDMB had denied his community of employment opportunities and other benefits including electricity from its gas power plant.
Chief Osene, who also decried what he described as hostile attitude of AMMANCO Limited in charge of the BayelsaPalm Estate, called on the State Government to take steps to stop the unnecessary harassment of his people by the company.
He also pleaded with the government to ensure the employment of Elebele indigenes at the Bayelsa State Polytechnic, Aleibiri, and the reflection of Elebele on the school’s signboard at the its temporary site..