Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Limited, PINL, a wholly Nigerian-owned company, in charge of surveillance of the Trans Niger Pipeline, has held a stakeholders engagement with the host communities of the pipeline.
The essence of the engagements which took top managements of PINL to two locations in Rivers State and one in Bayelsa was to have a face to face contact with Paramount Rulers, Community Development Committee and Youth leaders of the host communities and to hear from them directly to agree on how to achieve greater results in the job of securing the pipelines.
Some of the communities present at the first day of the meeting are from Ogoni axis (B-Dere, Tai) , from Obio/Akpor (Rumuokwurusi, Rumukpoku), Emohua axis (Rumuekpe, Ndele, Iba), Ikewerre LGA (Aluu, Omagwa, Isiokpo). Abia state (Owaza community). A total of 124 communities drawn also from Imo and Bayelsa States were also represented .
Leader of the Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Limited, PINL team and General Manager, Community Relations, Akpos Mezeh, said the meetings were part of our regular engagements to get feedback from host communities on the performance and also get their buy-in, “so we can improve on our performance”.
He noted that the company in its self assessment of its relationship with the host communities came to the conclusion that there was room for improvement, hence the decision to interface with the communities and get their input on the best way forward to achieve the desired result that would lead to greater pipeline security and ultimate elimination of illegal oil bunkering.
“We are ready to engage all the communities to ensure that we provide the necessary employment opportunities. As we speak 100 per cent of our surveillance guards are allocated to host communities”, he stated.
Dominant issues from the engagements were; need to increase community work force, engagement of competent contractor from nominees from the community, adequate and prompt payment of remunerations.
Others are ensuing that pipeline vandals, when arrested must be prosecuted and jailed to serve as deterrent to others and prevent them harassing the community for exposing them; provision of security and other working tools for the community surveillance workers and regular interaction with the Paramount Rulers and Community Development Committee CDC Chairmen.
Speaking on behalf of the Paramount Rulers at one of the engagements, His Royal Highness Eze Willy Uwakwe, Traditional Ruler of Opuoma Autonomous Community in Imo state described the interface as a welcome development.
He said; “we like it because they admitted that they deemed it necessary because there are shortfalls from what they get from the contractor and what the contractor is telling them. That’s why they decided to come and interact with us one-on-one, so we thank them for that.
But what we are saying is that they should please ensure that they increase the number of staff. Personally, in my community, I don’t know those who are working, which is somehow. I should know because in every community, my palace and cabinet we know who is who. PINL is a good company as I said. Last year during the flood desaster, they came to our aid giving us some palliatives. So what we are telling them is that we really need, emphatically, we really need somebody from our side as the contractor in our community”.
In response to issues raised by the community leaders, Mezel described the outcome of the meeting as wonderful. “The community have dedicated themselves to support the company and ensure that they achieve our goals and objectives”.
He added; “We have agreed to do more for the communities in terms of increasing the number of workers and ensure that our pipelines are given adequate attention. We have taken a decision at the management level to ensure that we take prosecution of vandals. We are going to ensure that all the offenders face the wrath of the law”.
“Another thing I want to chip in is the that the first layer of security anywhere is the community. Before anybody does any thing in the community be sure that our people can know the actual people that did that thing. I have laid emphasises when I spoke to some body some days ago and I said “I stayed in Eleme for a period of time, and when there is a particular activity some where, we will point who did the havoc just by pointing the area. That is why we took it upon ourselves to engage the royal fathers and everybody here. Let’s see how we can work together.
“They also buttressd some points that has to do with our security layout and the people are still in our environment and that has posed a lot of fears and I see people coming out to report. Currently, we are handling most of all those issues.
“The thing about compromise it’s almost everywhere. When we took up responsibility some couple of months back, we can see that there’s a difference in our approach that’s why we don’t want to go with the normal ideology of ‘lets just depend on our contractors’, so we want to get feedback from the royal fathers and the people on ground.
“Let’s work together because first point of identification is from the community layout. Even before the security comes into play, it is community that will give us peace. We do not expect that the community surveillance will go to make arrest. Their job is not to go and fight the perpetrators of this crime.
“Their job is to give feedback to us, cause we will handle it adequately so if you come through the angle and say for example you want to have a direct dealing with the community it’s not to engage or create any trouble, it’s just to look for a way at which you can achieve our goals and achieve it timely because we have seen that there may be failure on the part of the first layer which is the community”.