Oil & Gas

‘Bonny-Bodo Road is hanging on the conscience of the nation’

by Frank Uzuegbunam

October 6, 2017 | 2:06 am
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The Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) recently signed a tripartite agreement with the Federal Government and Julius Berger Nigeria Limited for the construction of the N120bn Bonny-Bodo Road. Kudo Eresia-Eke, general manager, external affairs, NLNG, in this interview with Frank Uzuegbunam, editor, West African Energy, talks about NLNG’s vision for Bonny Island, among other issues. Excerpt:

What is the objective of the contract recently signed by NLNG with the Federal Government and Julius Berger on the Bonny-Bodo Road?

The Bodo-Bonny road has been on the conscience of the nation for decades – the road is supposed to link Bonny to the mainland. The reason why I said this road is hanging on the conscience of the nation is because of the value the country derives from the conducive atmosphere and accommodation provided by the Bonny Kingdom. You have vital organisations that are valuable to government operating there. And of course, the NLNG is there too. Much of the revenue accruing through these giants go to the federal government.

Bonny people have to face the vagaries of the sea; from time to time, people drown as a result of capsizing canoes. This is in spite of the fact that the NLNG essentially offers all of its vessels to co-ferry its staff, visitors and community members from inception but it is never enough. You cannot take everybody. Majority of the community members still have to go through the turbulence of the sea and all the disasters.

So, the NLNG felt the Federal Government should complete the road. It is good enough to urge the federal government to complete the road but it is even better to do something to help the federal government to complete the road. It remains a federal government road. What we have offered is to pay 50 percent of the cost of the road, which is N60 billion.

That encouraged the Federal Government to get into a contract with their chosen contractor, Julius Berger, so they signed a contract and on top of the contract is a tripartite agreement, which enabled the NLNG to fund the project up to 50 percent. We have signed that contract. We are hoping to have the ceremonial flag off early this October.

How long is the road?

It is 34Km from Bonny, and connects a few communities along the way including Andoni. By the time it gets to Bodo, it is already the mainland.

How did the NLNG arrive at the decision to partner the Federal Government on this road project?

We have this grad vision of doing the best we can to help Bonny grow into a mini Dubai. When we speak about this, people think we are too ambitious. We need to set up a model, an inspiration for others of what is possible when we are all determined and focused. To support this vision of a mini Dubai, it is not enough to speak about it.

We went to work with the community and created a foundation, the Bonny Kingdom Development Foundation. We have committed as a company to funding the foundation to the tune of N3 billion every year for 25 years.

There is already a master plan in place and the community has accepted that. So working with that master plan over 25 years and with this kind of budget or even more, because we are expecting that other companies will join us, it will tell you that it is not a pipe dream.

No matter what you do in the island, if there was no mobility, no interaction, you constrain capital movement, constrain people movement. It, thus, becomes critical that to make that dream a reality, you then need to connect the island with the mainland. This was part of the things that inspired us to leave something behind that will serve generations untold. Things are difficult, we are in dire straits in terms of finance and things are not the way they used to be but we believe that Bonny deserves it.

How long has this project been on the drawing table?

The ministry will tell you that the project has been on the drawing board for at least 20 years, some will say for a generation. However, for the NLNG, it was in 2014 that we made a presentation to our board, putting all the elements together and the board approved it. Since then, we started making connections with the federal government but they needed to get a contract, agree terms of the contract and also reassure themselves of our support, so all those kinds of mechanisms and bureaucracy led us to this time but we are happy it happened.

What is the timeline for the project completion?

The timeline is somewhere around 4 – 5 years. The contractor will be in a better position to say but from the much I gathered, it is 4 – 5 years but if there are opportunities of expediting action, that would be everybody’s advantage but it is not a very easy terrain and it is not just roads but bridges for most parts, so you needed a very good contractor that had the experience and knows what to do.

In the event the Federal Government is not forthcoming with its counterpart funding, what will the NLNG do?

We trust they would. They budgeted for this, I think N9 billion for a start and there is evidence of commitment from the federal government and there is support from the Ministry of Finance and there is also support from interested members of the National Assembly.

I think that government has realized that good intentions may not serve too well if there is no money but I think it all depends on prioritization. This is in the heart of the Niger Delta. We all know what the Niger Delta means to Nigeria and by that very fact alone, priority will be given to it by the federal government.

What has been the reaction of the host community since the signing of the agreement?

They are elated. This is the project they have waited for decades. This is the biggest thing for them – they dreamt it, prayed for it and thought about it. If you are from the riverine and you have to go through the vagaries of the sea everyday as you shuttle between mainland and island, it will be easy for you to understand. Business requires interaction with the larger world, so they have to go to Port Harcourt and other cities but there is no road. If we do nothing else and did the road, Bonny will be happy.

At N60bn, which is 50% of the contract value; is this the single biggest CSR project by the NLNG?

It is the single biggest CSR project by the NLNG and on the continent of Africa, and I dare say in the world. The other CSR project I mentioned earlier is the development of the master plan that cumulatively comes to N75 billion over the period of 25 years, but the reason why I think the Bodo-Bonny road is the biggest CSR project is that essentially, it is one lump but the other is N3 billion every year.

You can also see our support for knowledge, science and literature. We sponsor the biggest prize in the continent; some say next to the Nobel is the NLNG prize for literature. Our scholarship programme are for every level up to post graduate level. We sponsor programmes for vocational training recognised by London City and Guilds – the Bonny Vocational Centre.

We have also done the $12 million University Support Programme (USP) for six universities, one in each region. We have done scholarship for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). We also have Youth Empowerment Scheme and we support local businesses because we feel that Nigerian Content Initiative should be supported.       

CSR means a lot to NLNG. We believe that we should be a force for good. We should also be an inspiration for Nigerians on different fronts. We should be able to demonstrate how it can be done. I wish to remind you that the NLNG is 100 percent Nigeria management so we also wish to demonstrate that Nigerians can make things happen better than most people around the world. That’s the message.

by Frank Uzuegbunam

October 6, 2017 | 2:06 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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