His Royal Highness Boma Kerekebunah is the Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM), Bayelsa state chapter. He is also the Atakparamor-Otumor V11, Paramount Rulers of Asitubu Community in Gbanraun Clan, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. In this interview with our correspondent, he speaks on the ongoing protest at the Content Nigerian, headquarters of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in Yenagoa by youths of Bayelsa state and why they are protesting
There have been sustained protest at the headquarters of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) by Bayelsan youths under the auspices of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) Bayelsa state chapter, why the protest?
The protest you are seeing today is based on the agreement we had. In 2019, we wrote a letter to the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to train our youths on skills acquisition. Of course we all know that it is the social responsibility of the Nigerian Content Board to train youths. To that effect, we had a meeting in 2019 which was published in the Local Content Magazine. They told us many things. They wrote us many letters in 2019.
They promised to train our boys. After that, they complained of COVID-19. They also told us that the money to train our youths is in the senate budget. They told us that the budgetary provision for 2019 has been expended and that it is going to be included in the 2020/2021 budget. So, we waited. After the National Assembly had approved the budget to train our people, they started telling us stories again. One of their excuses was that they won’t deal with us anymore because we have a court case with our splinter group, HOSCON.
But is it not true that your group has a subsisting court case with the other group?
The truth of the matter is that there is no court case between HOSTCOM and any other group for that matter. What happened is that there is one Idubamo Awala who was parading himself as Chairman of HOSTCOM in Bayelsa state. We therefore reported the matter to the Bayelsa state police command for investigation. After their investigation, the police came out with a report which was addressed to the Executive Secretary, NCDMB and attentioned to NCDMB Deputy Manager, Security Service, Peter Isu. The report dated December 1st 2020, confirmed that there is no other group other than HOSTCOM in Bayelsa and that I am the authentic Chairman of HOSTCOM in the state.
We heard your group is demanding for the training of 1,000 youths in Bayelsa, don’t you think that number is outrageous?
It seems you have not been following up with the activities of the NCDMB in recent times. I will give you some statistics that will shock you. For instance, NCDMB has trained hundreds and thousands of youths even in far away Northern Nigeria. For example, if you read 2021 edition of the Local Content Digest, a magazine published by the NCDMB, you will appreciate why we are protesting for the training of 1,000 Bayelsan youths. In that edition of the magazine there is an article entitled: 500 Bauchi youths graduate from NCDMB GSM training. The article went further to enumerate Kano, Kaduna, Cross-River and Yobe states beneficiaries of NCDMB training programmes with over 2,900 youths benefiting. The question we should ask ourselves sincerely is that, what have Bayelsans done wrong to deserve this oppression?
Why is it that they have always decided to give the back seat to the goose that lays the golden egg? If a state like Bauchi that has no bearing with contributions to the economy of Nigeria can enjoy training of 500 youths and Kano up to a 1,000 youths, why is it that Bayelsa, a state that contributes substantially to the economy of the country does not deserve a training of 1,000 youths by the same NCDMB that is training thousands of northern youths? Could you imagine that out of 1,000 youths agreed to be trained in Bayelsa State, by the NCDMB, they now said they will train only 100? Initially, they said they will no longer train anybody because there is a court case. Why is it that they now want to train 100? If people don’t know our grievances, they will begin to say all manner of things to make the people of Bayelsa State look as if we are violent.
There is this rumour that is going on in the pages of some newspapers that the protest by your members may put pressures on the NCDMB to relocate its headquarter to somewhere else, does that not worry you?
That rumour alone is laughable. All over the world, people protest if they feel shortchanged. There is no part of the world where you don’t experience protests. It is the beauty of democracy.
Peaceful protest is an avenue for the oppressed to seek redress through dialogue. if peaceful protests like the one we are carrying out right now will make NCDMB to relocate, then the White House in American would have relocated long ago because American citizens have protested to the White House severally and it has not relocated. Back here in Nigeria, if peacful protest will cause government establishments to relocate, then our own Aso Rock would have relocated to somewhere I don’t know. You need to ask those instigating the relocation of NCDMB from Yenagoa to tell us which region or state in present day Nigeria that is safer that Bayelsa state. If government Houses and other establishments in the Boko Haram ravaged northern Nigeria have not relocated, those trying to give Bayelsa a bad name in order to hang her should think of other convincing reasons.
There is an allegation that you were selling forms to would-be trainees, what do you have to say?
That is not true. It is a mere blackmail by detractors to discredit us before the management of the NCDMB. This frivolous allegation is not new to us and we have treated the issue and the NCDMB is quite aware that the rumour that we were selling forms was not true. It was a group of some fraudsters that were using our name to defraud unsuspecting Bayelsans.
What is the way forward?
We are a peace loving people. We are not violent and you can attest to that since this avoidable protest started. You see, we are not demanding for too much. we are only saying that what is good for the goose is good for the Ganda. If states that are not Oil producing or host communities are benefiting from our treasure and we are not annoyed, at least, let us also taste from the aroma of the sweet pudding that our crude oil has prepared. our request is simple, we need 1,000 youths to be trained in Bayelsa state. It will do everybody good, including the IOCs, if our boys are trained and engaged in meaningful ventures because the idol mind is the Devil’s workshop.