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NCDMB Tower Shines, Glimmer of Hope for Niger Delta Infrastructure

…As IOCs urged to return

-By Gideon Osaka

The Niger Delta region over the year has become a geographical location famous for persistent agitations by the people over the perceived neglect of the region amidst abject poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment oil exploration activities have brought to the region.

One of the most ferocious agitations by communities in the region over time is their insistence that oil companies particularly the multinational giants relocate their headquarters to the region.

Currently, most of the international oil companies (IOCs) in Nigeria reportedly have their head offices hundreds of kilometers away from the oil-rich region.

These agitations have at several times translated to motions in the National Assembly seeking the relocation of headquarters of oil and gas companies and their regulators to states where they have dominant operations.

Leaders in the oil-rich region have hinged their clamour on the fact that it was only fair and logical that the oil majors relocate their headquarters to areas where they have significant business presence because doing so was the only way meaningful development will take place in the region.

Again, the case for the relocation of oil companies to the region have been made stronger by the presumption that the contribution to the development of the oil companies’ host communities were not in any way commensurate with the revenue they were raking from the crude oil buried in the bowels of earth in the region.

Other proponents were of the view that the oil companies’ relocation would foster peace, unity, and rapid development and open the area to modern development and ultimately be a victory for the people of the region since their operations in that area would have a direct impact on the communities where they operate.

Valuechain reports that many other literatures on the relocation issue have spoken about how it was a very bad thing that most of the IOCs for instance, have their headquarters in Lagos, South West of the country and by this, pay taxes and benefits to other states to the neglect of the region where oil exploration activities have polluted the environment.

Therefore, It did not come as a surprise when stakeholders from the region under the umbrella of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clark, presented their 16-point demands to President Buhari in Abuja in 2016, in which the relocation of the administrative and operational headquarters of the IOCS to the areas of their decades operations was one of the key demands made by PANDEF.

Findings showed that before now, there were so much disincentives for the companies to either remain in the region or for those who have left, to return.

At several occasions when the multinational oil firms tried to established their presence firmly in the area, militant activities most of the time led to the kidnapping of both foreign and indigenous staff. The destruction of oil facilities by militants presumably forced oil companies to relocate their head offices to states devoid of turmoil.
While militancy and vandalism remained a deterrent the problem of infrastructure in the region was another major scare for the oil companies.

As a consequence of this, job opportunities that the presence of the companies would have provided for the people of the area were no longer available.

But a glimmer of hope seems to have come for people of the region as well as companies planning to return to the region following the recent commissioning of the 17 storey Nigerian Contents Development Board (NCDMB) building, called the Nigerian Content Tower.

The building which comprises of 10MW Power Plant, 1000-seater Conference Center, four-storey car parks, and several other facilities will be used as the corporate headquarters of the NCDMB in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Stakeholders who have applauded the stat-of-the-earth edifice said the completion and commissioning of the tower would create the enabling environment for oil companies to interface better with the NCDMB and also for companies willing to relocate their offices to the region.

They added that the 10-Megawatt gas-fired power plant and 1,000 seater conference hall as well other infrastructures within the Tower could serve as an incentive for oil companies to open new operational offices since siting their structure within the cluster of the Tower will allow for sharing of critical infrastructure like power, technology and a host of other resources.

The timely completion and commissioning of the project according to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Chief Timipre Sylva, shows that skyscrapers and other laudable infrastructures can be built in the Niger Delta and indigenous contractors can perform wonders when given the right opportunities, adding that the people of Bayelsa and indeed the entire Niger Delta were receptive to development.

Presenting the tower to President Buhari for commissioning, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote said the main contractor, which is Nigerian with several other Nigerian sub-contractors worked day and night to deliver the world-class building with impressive safety statistics.

According to him “the materials used are 76 percent Nigerian Content with the tiles, electrical cables, granite, and many other building materials produced in Nigeria. The manpower used for services and labour is over 95 per cent Nigerian Content. The skills transferred to the local workforce in the construction of a high-rise building has been unprecedented.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, who commissioned the new building via zoom, has also pledged his government’s readiness to spend more on infrastructure across the region and to focus on finishing projects delivered by local contractors and technology that create jobs for thousands of Nigerians.

While reaffirming his administration’s drive to attract investments, create jobs and eradicate poverty among Nigerians, the president reiterated the administration’s commitment to investing more in infrastructure development and initiatives that would open up the Niger Delta region.
Valuechain reports that the president’s assurance at the unveiling of the tower further aligns with his administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta (NEVIND) and his Inaugural Speech on May 29, 2015 when he said the government intended to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place in the Niger Delta.

Further analysis shows that some of the government’s effort in terms of infrastructure development that could give fillip to the relocation of the local and foreign oil companies to the Niger Delta region include the resumption of construction work on abandoned projects awarded to different contractors across the Niger-Delta since 2006, including the all-important East-West Road and the second Niger Bridge both projects now at the last phase of completion; the flag-off of construction of the 34km Bonny-Bodo road, the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail project and construction of modular refineries.

So far, six modular refineries are currently at different stages of completion in the Niger Delta region. The refineries are located in six states in the Niger Delta namely: Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Bayelsa and Cross River.

The administration has also deployed the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme aimed at deploying infrastructure that will address the exit of gas flaring in the region.

Other infrastructural projects being championed by the administration and aimed at opening up the region for more investments incude the construction of $186 million 240MW expansion of the existing Afam Power Plant (commenced in 2016, almost completed), Dualisation of Yenegwe Road Junction-Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm (Sukuk Bond) (ongoing); Rehabilitation of Sections 1 to 4 of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway (ongoing); completion of the 60km Alesi–Ugep Road in Cross River State; contract award for the 72km section from Odukpani Junction to Ugep and rehabilitation of Calabar–Itu–Odukpani Road that links Akwa-Ibom to Cross River (ongoing).