OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives Committee on Host Communities has cautioned against the use of divide-and-rule tactics by the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) in dealing with its host communities.
The committee also expressed its determination to see to the resolution of alleged exclusion and neglect of Finima community of Bonny by the company to ensure a peaceful environment for the NLNG Train 7 project and other operations of the company.
These were part of the decisions reached at an investigative hearing held by the committee on Monday, 5th of July 2021, following the petition by Finima Community Development Council.
The petition alleged a flagrant violation of host community rights and deliberate neglect and marginalization of Finima community by the NLNG Limited and conduct capable of hampering cooperate peace in the construction of NLNG’s train 7 project.
Spokesperson for the petitioner, Dr. Bara Kabaka-Brown, while presenting their case, gave a brief history of the relations the community has had with first, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and then NLNG, and how the exploratory activities in the area has resulted in the loss of the 36 out of the 37 of the community’s creeks which has grossly affected their livelihoods.
He stressed that the displacement of the Finima people from their ancestral land to accommodate the NLNG has been without adequate compensation and there have been unfulfilled promises.
In his words, ‘‘our people hoped that a relocation of this nature should come with certain benefits. However, up until today Finima community is yet to enjoy those benefits. It is sad to know that NNPC could not uphold the commitments made at the time of resettling the Finima people for reasons best known to them and it is our understanding that NLNG is to fulfil what they did not do.’’
He prayed the committee to grant the community justice, saying that “I wish I can appeal to your conscience but I want to appeal to your integrity because I know committee members are persons of integrity to see that we get justice in this matter.”
The General Manager, External Relations for NLNG and representative of the Managing Director of NLNG, Mrs. Eyono Fatai – Williams made a submission on behalf of the company.
She thanked the committee for the opportunity to given to NLNG to respond to the allegations made against it and admitted that the company has in ‘‘no small measure contributed to the development of Bonny Kingdom, which Finima is a part of.’’
When asked by Mr. Mohammed Umar Bio, a member of the committee whether the company’s operations were indeed in the petitioner’s lands as alleged, the answer was in the affirmative.
She also admitted that Finima is not recognized as a host community on its own, rather as a part of Bonny Kingdom to which host community rights are accorded. She added that since year 2000, the company has operated within a framework which was designed by the Nigerian government through the intervention of the Rivers state government within Bonny.
The matter took a different and dramatic dimension when some other attendees at the hearing made attempts to speak. Upon inquiry by the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Dumnamene Dekor, it was discovered that the attendees were also people from Bonny who were not part of the petitioners and were not invited by the committee to the hearing.
The Chairman frowned at the presence of uninvited parties to the hearing, a group which he said was ‘‘maybe invited’’ by the NLNG. He iterated that it is the committee’s strong desires to put a stop to the issues presented before it.
Speaking to the representatives of NLNG he said; ‘‘it is not your duty to divide Bonny Kingdom, you will not divide Bonny Kingdom. The Kingdom has been there like that before all of us but we must put the records straight.’’
With this, the uninvited party were denied an opportunity to speak, citing the fact that since they were not invited by the committee and had no petitions before it, they were merely observers.
Earlier on, a member of the House, Mr. Farah Dagogo, had pleaded with the committee chairman to grant audience to the uninvited guests and had also asked to be allowed some time to intervene on the issues.
In closing the session, Mr. Dekor advised both parties to be ready for dialogue, adding that a date would be communicated as soon as possible to continue the search for peace.
Recall that a recent petition hearing by Bekikiri community in Bayelsa against an oil company had also witnessed the mobilization of uninvited parties which were also denied a chance to speak.