…BKLCCC accuses gas company of neglect of its contractors
…But NLNG says it considers core host as trusted partner
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Nigeria’s foremost gas liquefaction company’s (NLNG) incoming $7 billion Train 7, which is the country’s boldest effort in gas business in nearly a decade, faces headwinds over alleged non-compliance yet with its core host’s participation in the construction of the multi-billion-dollar project.
Bonny Kingdom, an island community in Rivers State which saw early trades with European explorers some 150 years ago, is the ‘core host’ of NLNG’s massive gas liquefaction plant at Finima. Other major facilities are the gas company’s water-wells, the residential area in Abalamabie.
The major sore-thumb is the accusation by the Bonny Kingdom Local Content Compliance Committee (BKLCCC) that the gas company and its contractors handling the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the Train 7 project, Saipem, Chiyoda and Daewoo joint venture (known as SCD JV) had decidedly side-lined its (BKLCCC) selected contractors for local participation as they kickstart the project’s early works and tie-in.
Apart from this, the gas company and its contractor company, SCD JV allegedly visited and opened project take-off talks with only one ruling house out of 35 ruling houses of the Bonny kingdom presided by the Amanyanabo. This forced all the ruling houses to jointly pull out of talks with the NLNG/SCD JV, accusing the latter of attempting to divide the kingdom’s centuries old traditional federated system called Bonny Chiefs Council (BCC). They said they can only return to negotiation when the gas company and its contractor understands to treat them as one united entity, and it (BCC) had received further directive from its appointing authority, the Amanyanabo-in-council.
The BKLCCC, which operates in tandem with the Nigeria Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB) was constituted by Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, the king, Amanyanabo, Natural Ruler and Perekule XI of Bonny Kingdom. But the monarch lamented that more than a year after he submitted the list of local contractors to the NCDMB to participate as local content of the NLNG’s Train 7, he was yet to receive a feedback on the approved list of contractors.
“We wonder where the NLNG and its contractor, SCD JV intends to source local contractors from. It is a thing of worry because for one year and four months since the BKLCCC sent in its list of indigenous contractors and their partners to NLNG for verification, more than half of the companies on the list are yet to be contacted to upload their documents for verification; and till date no verified list of indigenous contractors and their partners has been forwarded to BKLCCC and SCD JV,” the monarch said.
Amaopusenibo Opuada Willie-Pepple is the chairman of BKLCCC. According to him, NLNG appears stoking crisis in its host community by attempting to pitch certain sections of the community against the other, thereby engender an internal crisis in the island kingdom.
“We know that NLNG has made some positive contributions in Bonny Kingdom but that was achieved because they adhered to existing constituted traditional authority in Bonny Kingdom. Presently they seem to want to create disunity in our kingdom. They want to see us fight and kill one another, but that will never happen,” the body said.
It likened the present situation (by NLNG) as an act of disrespect to its chief host, the Amanyanabo by downplaying the engagement guidelines availed it by the Bonny chiefs council (BCC), which the monarch presides. It also describes the act as akin to ‘divide-and-rule’ tactic, with the grand plan to cunningly engage only one chieftaincy house, the Buoye Omuso (Brown) House while side-lining the other 34 chieftaincy houses, all of which are federating units of Bonny Kingdom, ahead of start off of Train 7.
“What they expect us to do is to gather ourselves and say we are going out against a particular house, and let people die. That is what they want. If not, the Amanyanabo-in-council cannot give his word and a company that is on Bonny soil will decide to look the council in the face and do otherwise. The actions of NLNG are egregious slight on its host community, Bonny Kingdom. Contrary to the directive given to the NLNG/SCD JV when they were introduced to the Bonny Chiefs’ Council, that the protocols in Bonny is that Bonny is one Kingdom led by the Amanyanabo-in-council and the Council directs the affairs of the Kingdom, the NLNG in complete disregard of this advice, orally and in writing, decided to lead SCD JV to pay a courtesy call on some persons in the Buoye Omuso (Brown) House of Bonny in the name of visiting Finima, and met resistance from the Tobin House, also of Finima. This act of NLNG if not checked could lead to crisis in the Kingdom,” the BKLCCC said.
It said further: “The way things are if the NLNG/SCD JV do not address this act of divide and rule tactic they seem to be applying, they might have to visit the 34 Chieftaincy Houses that make up Bonny Kingdom, conclude discussions with them; and when their demands are collated, then we resume discussion, seeing that they have decided to treat with levity a system of traditional governance in Bonny Kingdom that predates the Nigerian State.”
However, NLNG, in a reaction by its general manager, external relations and sustainable development, Eyono Fatayi-Williams, denied all BKLCCC’s claims. The company said that it holds the Bonny monarch in high esteem, and would not act in any manner to denigrate him or his office.
“NLNG states for the record that it holds the King of Bonny, His Majesty, King Edward Asimini William Dappa Pepple III, JP, CON Perekule XI, Amanyanabo & Natural Ruler of Grand Bonny Kingdom, a respected first-class traditional ruler in Rivers State, in high esteem and maintains very cordial relationships with the King and Bonny Kingdom. The Company considers the community as a trusted partner, and remains committed to the unity of the Kingdom,” Fatayi-Williams said in a statement.
According to her, the local content development was at the core of NLNG’s drive to successfully deliver its Train 7 project, and that NLNG would continue to engage the community in its efforts at implementing the project in a peaceful and beneficial way to Bonny Kingdom.
“Sustainable development of Bonny Kingdom and local content development remain at the core of the Train 7 Project. NLNG is fully committed to delivering the Nigerian Content Plan of the project, in partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), in line with its vision to help build a better Nigeria.
“NLNG will continue to engage the leadership of the Kingdom in its desire to ensure the successful execution of Train 7 Project in a manner that is both peaceful and beneficial to Bonny Kingdom, Rivers State and Nigeria,” said the NLNG spokesperson.
Gas value-chain experts however, urge the nation’s foremost gas liquefaction company to work hard to successfully deliver the $7 billion Train 7 project. For Friday Udoh, a chartered economist, gas value-chain expert and chief economist at the Institute of Chartered Economist of Nigeria (ICEN) in the South-South, the NLNG Train 7 may suffer serious hiccups if it does not carefully address the BKLCCC issues.