Prof. Jasper F. Jumbo, a Wari Alabo (House Chief) of the Jumbo Major House, one of the largest community houses in gas rich Bonny Island of Rivers State has reportedly remained resolute in his advocacy that the people of the Niger Delta get a fair share in revenues from hydrocarbon minerals mined from their soil. He recently spoke to journalists in Abuja on issues relating to his communities’ claimed struggles with the operations of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), as well as the latter’s disagreement with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over a law mandating oil and gas companies to remit 3 per cent of their earned revenues for the development of the Niger Delta. Chineme Okafor was there. Excerpts
Pease, tell us a bit more about yourself?
I am Wari Alabo Jasper F. Jumbo, Chairman of Niger Delta Projects Consortium. I am equally the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee and Traditional Head of the Jumbo Major House in Bonny Local Government, which is the largest of all Bonny Houses. We have about 20 communities in Bonny and I am the current traditional head of this House. I have been in civic advocacy for Niger Delta planned and phased development for years, right from the Pa Biriye days and I have selflessly served as the conscience of that region. I wrote the OMPADEC blueprint during the days of former President Ibrahim Babangida.
I wrote the NDDC blueprint during the Obasanjo’s regime as well. Apart from that, as Chairman/Chief Executive of Rivers State Petroleum and Environmental Protection Authority (RSPEPA), I participated in the scoping and scoring of the NLNG Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) between 1997 and 1998, and the Jumbos are part landlords to the NLNG because Shell gave part of the contiguous Bonny Oil Terminal land we part-own with the Brown Major House of Finima to the NNPC which in turn, gave it to the NLNG. So, following the law of contiguity, the Jumbos are also part landlords to the NLNG.
You seem to have a grouse against the NLNG, what really is it?
My grouse? I am not against Nigeria giving tax waiver for any new project. I was part and parcel of the metamorphosis of the NLNG during the Abacha days and I even went to Bintulu in the State of Sarawak in Malaysia on my own, to learn more and explain to Bonny people and Niger Deltans what the NLNG was all about.
I am not making pretenses about this and I owe no one any apology because I am speaking from a point of view of a weighted stakeholder in Bonny community and in the Niger Delta. NLNG has made several claims that they spent millions of dollars on corporate social responsibility and tax payments to government but I have not seen that reflect in Bonny and I have repeatedly said this before the Bonny traditional institutions.
I have stated to them that what was going on in Bonny was a tale of two cities. Inside the NLNG yard is like modern London or any other western city but outside and within Bonny Community where my people live, is like 17th century hamlet and this is unacceptable to us.
Secondly, NLNG claims that Bonny maintain 24 hours electricity. No, that is wrong. They are misinforming the public because not all parts of Bonny town has light. The whole of workers camp and its environs has no light. Light House area, Agaja and the vast territory from wells 3 to well 12, have no light. I openly challenge the NLNG or its hired hatchet propagandists who claim to know Bonny more than we landowners, to prove otherwise!
I also want to see how we can get light from Burukri to Georgekiri, and some of our other communities along that axis. So anyone coming to lay false claims that we have 24 hours uninterrupted electricity in Bonny is deceiving the public.
But the NLNG also claims it has thousands of scholarships for your people to acquire quality education?
When they say they are giving thousands of scholarships, how many Bonny indigenes have those scholarship? The vocational school they have is a GCE level vocational school. Is that what you expect our boys to work with in a high level capacity, when that cannot even fetch a middle level manpower vocation for the development of our people?
Finally, the Bodo-Bonny Road, which NLNG has pledged to Contribute 50% should be investigated immediately by the Federal Government because their project cost for it, is far from the truth. I want the government to investigate this because they stated they are going to contribute 50 per cent of N150 billion fund to build the Bodo-Bonny road and I put it straight to them that it is not true.
I want the BPP to take a precautionary look at this particular issue because former President Obasanjo in 2002, when I led about 132 Niger Delta leaders to the Villa as a mark of honour for my humble services for our zone and Great nation, promised to build a road within two weeks to Bonny after two of our boys drowned and died along the Bonny River. He made up that promise and brought Gitto Construztom to build that road at the cost of N25.5 billion and gave N5 billion mobilisation to Gitto.
Even if they are expanding the road wider by five times or five lanes, how would that same road that cost N25.5 billion, now cost N150 billion? What community resettlement are you talking about? Gitto started with Community compensation.
The settlements are in the creeks and some of them have been done all these years and so that claim cannot actually be true because I suspect the NLNG of complicity in this and the Federal Government should have the whole exercise probed.
So, you’re actually discrediting NLNG’s claims of steadfast CSR to the Bonny people?
See, my friend, a place like Obite in Onelga, Rivers State, that is the highest oil producing local government area in Nigeria – Obite is very close to Erema and not in my LGA, Or need I mention Obrikom and then Sooku or Bonny – many of them get little or nothing from the NLNG, which mostly undertake external CSR in the interest of a few people. The recreation club inside NLNG Complex in Bonny has about seven tennis courts. If the NLNG builds just about three of such within the Bonny community, we know the impact it would bring to our youths.
Who is fooling who? You are using the place, bleeding the place and people dry, polluting the place with poisonous emissions minute by minute, and yet take out billions of dollars from the processed gas but do not want to contribute to the communities development. They are merely creating bestiality and orchestrating recipe for communal disaffection.
What are your reservations on NLNG’s stance on 3% remittance to NDDC?
Why should NLNG have total exclusion to the three percent NDDC contribution? It is understandable that at inception, it was in our national interest to allow them some waiver. I am talking about the enlightened self-interest of Nigeria because it is high time we stopped pleasing a few elites and external interests.
The people in the gas producing, gas gathering and gas storage communities are equally Nigerian citizens. They are getting a raw deal from the mal-operations of these insensitive people. Our people are saying that they cannot continue with this, allowing equipment to totally destroy the environment and future of our people and we have nothing to show for it.
We need to think inwards. Even in the NDDC, has it done its duties well? What about the Ogoni cleanup? Why should it be just a clean-up of the Ogoni areas? Is it more polluted than the Forcados; Bonny; Okrika; Obagi; Oloibiri or Ibeno?
If the NLNG wants to tell reasonable patriots to go to “hell”, their insensitivity may in years ahead, when the youth get more enlightened of the cheating, eventually snowball and affect the country. We expect the NLNG to help the NDDC to do its job it was set up by the federal government to do.
We are trying to solicit for peace and the stability of the Niger Delta and the NLNG like any other gas company in the country must pay the three per cent remittance. That is the beginning of the dialogue.
If you say this is a risk to peace in Bonny and other Delta areas, this then invalidates the position that NLNG’s interventions in Bonny which has largely ensured peace in the area?
That is not true. NLNG is not doing as much I am doing to keep peace in Bonny. I am working to keep peace in Bonny more than the NLNG is doing. As the head of the largest House in Bonny, I am keeping peace in Bonny not NLNG and that is a verifiable fact. NLNG recently signed a MoU to settle a few personal interests in Bonny LGA, without the consultation or participation of the largest house in Bonny LGA, where it operates.
But they reportedly signed the hugely developmental MoU for Bonny communities?
Which Bonny communities? You mean the ‘consentor’ to the agreement that brought in Shell in July 22, 1958 when our family land was leased. The Jumbo and Brown Houses gave land to Shell and the entire Bonny community, including the Jumbos and Browns were called consentors (which is like witnesses) and they were to share only 40 per cent, whereas the two landlord families are to have 60%
NLNG and Shell are leaving the plank, the pillar or tripod on which this agreement exists and are now signing agreement exclusively with the consentor. How will this stand? Our youths have gone to court and I cannot discuss this matter now.
But let it be on record that it is unacceptable and it will not stand because that is the basis of another crisis.
What do you want NLNG to do, going forward with all your facts?
There are things to do. The NLNG should go and revisit the title origin of the land they are currently using, because they obtained a certificate of occupancy from the military without factoring in the interests of the original landlords whose parcel of land was ceded to them and they have not been carrying along people who are contiguous landlords. Thereafter, the NDDC must map out parts of the money for the development of these areas or communities who are the real landlords for these operations so that people will have peace in the Niger Delta.