• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Divestment and decentralisation of oil power: Oceanic Island, Robertkiri, explode as Belema Industrial City begins

Settlers

When news broke few months ago that the Federal Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) just awarded an oil terminal license to Belemaoil Producing Limited (BPL) to be located in Kula, a town jutting into the Atlantic Oceanic (Akuku-Toru local council area of Rivers State), many did not wake up to its implications. Many did not also know that a small island, Robertkiri, connected by a canal, is the eventual destination.

To get to Robertkiri, a traveller taking off in Port Harcourt would either enter the waters directly at Abonnema Jetty or go first by land through Emuoha to Abonnema town in Asari-Toru Local Government Area. There, he would board a boat, often escorted by an army gunboat or by a private surveillance team (mostly formed from ex-fighters and recanted pirates) and head out into the vast waters towards the ocean. After about 45 minutes, the boat would turn right and soon navigate through the creeks until it gets to a canal that takes one to Robertkiri, total about one hour thirty minutes.

Fresh clearing showing pipeline right of way heading to the island would be seen. Signs of military posts in the swift-flowing waters would show that an important facility is upfront, not discounting the frequent sites of flow stations and communities dotting along the waterway.

At Robertkiri last week, a large crowd gathered to welcome the entourage. It was to be the final goodbye ceremony of the hundreds of dwellers, settlers, tenants and secondary landlords. The chiefs from Kula were on hand to add their voice for the nostalgic goodbye; an emotion smoothened by good tiding.

It was then that the news of few months back (that an oil terminal had been approved for Belemaoil and the coming of the proposed Belema Atlantic City, also known as Belema Industrial City) became appreciable.

The Atlantic City dream

Belemaoil was able to emerge because some IOCs divested in shallow and upland fields to focus on less troubled deep waters (offshore). An oil engineer from the community (Jack-Rich Tein Jr) bought OML 55 from Chevron and started running an oil field. He later became a player in Shell’s OML 25, with eyes on bigger deals. His group is deep in exploration and gas adventures. He seems to be pushing the boundaries in marginal oil propensity.

The dream of the Atlantic City was unfolded to Kula people on February 20, 2019, at the Anglican Church ground that serves as their community square where the people were almost dazed with the prospects that seemed utopian. Sam Abel Jumbo, a lawyer, who is the External Communications Manager of Belemaoil, read the loaded address of the Founder/President, Jackrich Tein Jr, seemingly full of dazzling promises.

The Founder first traced the history and turnaround of Belemaoil and Kula as a people. “In 2016 when we resumed operations of OML 55, our communities, particularly Kula, were in dare need of quality drinking water. Today, we do not only have drinking water, we have a world class potable drinking water of W.H.O. and NAFDAC standard whose quality is commensurate with any standard all over the world.

“Within the last two years, we have created, supported and enhanced local wealth creation in Kula by ensuring that our people partake in contracts and other opportunities to enhance their livelihood. We have employed over 1,000 youths of Kula and other operational communities through our on-going Surveillance Security and other opportunities.

“We have employed over 50 graduates of various technical skills from Kula and other of our operational communities, with more to come. We are opening Kula with the ongoing construction of the 6.5km Ring Road, linking the old city centre through the new areas back to the community jetty. We are reclaiming and opening the water fronts and other frontiers within the community, and thereby expanding the community.”

He said that was nothing yet. “In collaboration with the FG, we have commenced preliminary work and approvals for the commencement of the construction of the 85Km Kula-Port Harcourt Road, which will link up all our satellite communities and settlements of Belema, Robertkiri, Luckyland, Boro, through Idama Kingdom and Degema. This multi-billion-naira project shall, when completed, not only guarantee the security of our lives and properties as we will no longer be preys to marauding pirates on our seas and water ways,” he said.

According to him, “Through our investment and development affiliates: J+G Global Gas & Oilfield Ltd, and Jack-Rich Tein Aid Foundation, the Belema Industrial Zone has already taken off the drawing board with the on-going reclamation work at Robertkiri for the siting of a world class airport which will stimulate the attendant developments and additional projects and business opportunities that will be attracted to the community, which shall include amongst others; The Belema Atlantic Island, the Belema Industrial Base, the Belema Atlantic Office, and the Billionaire Atlantic Island.” The applause was thunderous.

Peaceful relocation

The settlers were said to have moved to other nearby islands to give way for intensive construction work already on site. Heavy equipment were said to be on the way from Onne seaport.

Officials said the Robertkiri location would have an oil terminal, gas plant, water plant to manage the water from oil, storage facility, pipe coating, and many more. Excitement was in the air at Robertkiri. The area would soon showcase a dehydrated unit (DHU) farm tank to manage water that would come from oil drilled nearby.

Giving details on site, Mufaa Welsh, a director of the parent company to Belema Pipeline Limited, said work has begun in earnest, requiring human s to vacate Robertkiri. He said the company handed hundreds of millions to the settlers who he said have already vacated. “Now, we are here to appreciate them further. The founder (Jackrich Tein) has sent his appreciation to them. Goodies are coming and the youths are the target. Next week when different equipment will be arriving from Onne seaport, another token is also coming.”

He went on: “We express appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari who has empowered Belema to help the communities by approving an oil terminal here. This will bring many developments. Jack-Rich Jnr is the vehicle that is bringing these things.”

Sources said the location was first acquired by Gulf Oil in 1964 before it went to Chevron and to Texaco and now Belema through one of its subsidiaries, Belema Pipeline. Settlers who followed a canal to the place later occupied the place due to many years of lull moments.

The company however doled out payments ex-gracia to the settlers and land owners to facilitate faster and smooth relocation. The settlers also heard about massive job opportunities and empowerment schemes on the way.

A chief and spokesman in the area, Iboroma Kelly Brown, who is head of the demolished Robertkiri riverine settlement, said: “The ownership of this place has since 1964 been from Gulf Oil to Chevron and now to Belema. Now, development has come here; gas plant and other things are coming immediately. It will mean massive jobs and contracts like never before. We commend the Founder of Belemaoil and Belema Pipeline Limited, Jack-Rich Tein Jnr for bringing ceaseless development and for deploying strategies to move the settlers out without for or bitterness.”

Another chief, Fiala Okoye-Davies, spokesman Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, said the development coming was worthy and could transform Kula to another Dubai. “It is going to be a robust development drive. The Kula Council of Chiefs approved this and nobody was forcefully ejected.”

On his own, another chief, Ibiyosia Nath-Sukubo, Spokesman of Offoin-Ama Community, said; “We say without equivocation that this is an iconoclastic action in Kula kingdom. We are leaders and owners of the land. We are happy. We want the Belema Industrial City. We appeal to you to give jobs, empowerment to the people. We have no problem in Kula.”

The pastor of Apostolic Church of Nigeria, Maritme Territory, Robertkiri Settlement Church, Kula, Baribobe Kunah, spoke in support of the relocation while the woman leader and landlay, Mpakamaire Pakagbure, commended Belema for bringing life back to the people. A landlord said they saw big money for the first time, while Ethime Japus, of Kula Youth Organisation worldwide said the impending projects seemed to be more for the youths. “It will bring engagements, jobs, empowerment, etc. We are thus happy and grateful to Belema Pipeline limited”.

Most speakers demanded for water, light, jetty, etc, to which the director (Welsh), said the contractor had been ordered to take action on the demands. He said the people around the area would see and taste modern life.

It must be with all the past evidence of goodies and more to come that when the Roberkiri community was asked to make way for the industrial city and paid what was called ex-gracia payouts that the hundreds of persons showed huge enthusiasm when newsmen arrived last week. They spoke their minds, saying they were happy to move, but made requests which were immediately granted.

The way work is progressing with rapidity, soon, many would hardly recognise the squeaky oceanic island that would be roaring with industrial wind. And prosperity would surely gush steadily from the noise to Robertkiri settlers, Kula and entire Niger Delta and Nigeria. Then would the world know what happens when wealth is decentralised in the oil sector through divestment by multinationals into the hands of community entrepreneurs such as Tein Jnr and his Belemaoil wealth creation enthusiasts.