By Edith Ike-Eboh
Chief Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources says oil-bearing communities are being carried along in the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refineries by a company, called Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC).
Sylva was reacting to allegation by oil-bearing communities that they are not part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refineries at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship forum in Abuja on Sunday.
He said that government on its part had ensured that communities would always participate in activities happening within their vicinities.
“It is not the government that will engage directly with the communities, we are government and we have been able to give the contract to EPC Contractors, part of the EPC Contractors’ role is engagement with communities.
“How they are going to do the work on ground, sub-contract it is up to them. I cannot play the role of going to talk to the communit. It is the EPC Contractors that will talk to the communities.
“It is part of its package because it made provision for employment, community engagement. All that is part of the money for the contract.
“It is not for government to be going to the communities to discuss with them. We have done what we need to do and the contractor is going to site. When he gets to site, the community, will of necessity be involved,’’ he said.
The minister said that the rehabilitation of the refineries was done through international tenders and that international companies responded to and that the process involved consultants.
According to him, at the tender stage, the host communities are not involved because at that stage, it is the process of selecting the contractors.
He said that after the tender, the next work would be drawing, which involved a lot of engineering work and planning, which also did not involve the communities.
“It is when they get to actual work on ground that community will be involved. There is no way the community will not be involved at that level.
“Nobody can actually avoid the community because if you are working in that community, you will need to give them employment.
“In fact, we are very mindful of that because we want to create jobs and if you are talking about the Mr President, he is so committed to creating jobs.
“You know, one of the mandates that have been given to my ministry and as minister is to create and add to the 100 million jobs that the president has promised over a period of 10 years.
“So everything we are doing, including the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt Refineries, every other project has as part of it creation of jobs.
“Of course, jobs should be created, opportunities should be created in the communities and when the time comes for it, the communities will definitely benefit,’’ Sylvia stated.
NAN recalls that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on April 6, signed the EPC contract with Maire Tecnimont SPA, an Italian company for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC).
The inaugural meeting on the signaling of the take-off of the project took place at the Port Harcourt Refinery on May 6.
The NNPC Chief Operating Officer, Refineries and Petrochemicals, Mr Yinusa Yakubu, said that out of the 3, 000 expected employees for the project, only 70 expatriates were expected to be engaged and that the rest would be Nigerians.
Also, the Managing Director of the PHRC, Mr Dikko Ahmed, assured that the NNPC remained a major stakeholder in the project.
“We have met with the host communities, we just don’t want them to create employment, we want them to be partners in this project and we can do it in various ways.
“Employment will have priority in that but there are other things they will require that we will be ready to do for them as we journey into this project.”
Dikko said that the communities would partner with the contractor to have a peaceful environment for the project. (NAN)