YEMIE ADEOYE 17 August 2014, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Bonny Kingdom is a remote island in the Niger Delta region, accessible only by air and water. The renowned community has held its peace even in the heights of insurgency in the region some years back.
Bonny plays host to several oil and gas companies and operations, including the NLNG, Shell, Agip, Chevron and ExxonMobil. This is the important nature of the island of Bonny.
In an effort to give back to this peaceful community which has played host over the years to its operations, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, MPNU, an affiliate of ExxonMobil, embarked on a youth development programme that is unprecedented in the kingdom. The company, in fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, obligations worked with the palace and the community leaders to send 41 indigenes of the ancient Bonny Kingdom to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State.
This very laudable idea was initiated following the recent construction of a new airstrip in Finima area of Bonny and aimed at bringing the indigenes of the area up to the task of operating their own airstrip rather than outsiders coming to take over the available opportunities the new airstrip provides.
Indigenes of Bonny are elated at this method of empowerment, which obviously is better than building structures that have no meaning to the youth population of the community in whose hands the future of the kingdom lies.
For Jennifer Banigo, Mobil Producing Nigeria has touched the heart of its host community via direct intervention and should be emulated by other IOCs in their various host communities.
Jennifer, one of the 41 indigenes sent to study aviation courses at the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, said after the training in an interview with Sweetcrudereports via telephone: “It all started with a call received from our different houses to inform us of the development and that the forms are available. I participated in the screening and was selected.
“The training which held in Zaria centered on planning aviation as well as basic factors of the aviation sector. We had 19 different courses and after this exposure I have decided to study advanced basic operation management.
“But for ExxonMobil I would not have been able to participate in such training on my own due to the cost of such exercise, hence they have made it easier for me to chart my career path and I would like to use this medium to say a big thank you even as I do hope they will not just stop there but assist us in getting a place in the labour market so we don’t just flock the market without a way out.”
MPNU and its joint venture partner, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, also made it clear that they are helping to develop the community through programmes such as this, which aim to build capacity amongst the Bonny indigenes, and would equip the beneficiaries with skill sets necessary for them to access job opportunities such as the aviation services required at the Finima Airstrip – a new airstrip which was recently constructed in Bonny Island.
Another participant, Ibifiri Omoni Benstowe, who spoke with our correspondent stated that the community chiefs informed her of the programme as she was already an ICAO-trained security personnel. She noted that the experience gathered through the training is second to none as she learnt clearly the very importance of time as all the trainers ensured time consciousness was of essence.
“I want to remain in the aviation sector and contribute my quota professionally. Thanks to ExxonMobil, they have rekindled my passion for the aviation sector and I am looking forward to working in the sector in the very near future”.
The 41 trainees were selected through the combined efforts of the Center for Values in Leadership (CVL) group (a Nigerian Non-governmental organisation), the Bonny Kingdom Development Committee and the Mobil Producing Nigeria Public and Government Affairs team. They were trained in various aviation skills including standard piloting, apron control, telephony, cargo handling, advanced diploma in Aviation Management and aviation security.