President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, laid the foundation stone of the multi-billion dollar Brass LNG project with the conferment of a Free Trade Zone status on the project, saying the gesture would provide not only the impetus for major investment but also encourage local and national industry players to benefit from a favourable investment climate as well as improve the lives of people of the region in many ways.
President Obasanjo who flew into Brass in a helicopter from Port Harcourt to perform the ground-breaking ceremony which attracted prominent citizens of the state and major players in the nation’s oil and gas industry explained that the establishment of a liquefied natural gas project in the region was part of strategy identified by government to turn around the fortunes of the region.
“The Brass LNG project, an investment that runs into hundreds of billions of naira, has the capacity to bring improvement to the lives of the people of the region in many ways,” the President said.
The project, he said, was aimed at providing employment for the large number of people of the region directly and indirectly through the multiplier effect it would create.
“It will naturally lead to the development of the infrastructure of the area as well as generally improving the economy of individuals in the communities,” he said, adding that even before the commencement of construction, the very robust sustainable community development plan of the project has started building technical capacity among youths in the Brass area through training in various fields at the Petroleum Training Institute, Warri.
Some of the beneficiaries of the training, according to him, will be employed in the industry on account of the new skills they have acquired while others would become employers of labour.
Stressing that it was the determination of his administration to reduce gas flaring in the Niger Delta, the said: “We resolved that we will develop and implement plans to convert natural gas produced in our oil and gas fields into products that will bring economic benefit to the nation rather than flaring it including sustained investment inflow in the oil and gas industry, particularly by encouragement of direct foreign investment through fiscal incentives in the industry.”
Commending the Bayelsa State government and the three Brass Island host communities of Twon Brass, Okpoma and Eweoma for providing the land for the project, he called on the elders and youths of the region to opt for peace as the pathway to rapid development of the region.
“We recognise that there are challenges. We also recognise that the one enduring way of effectively facing up to those challenges is through dialogue and collaboration,” he told the people.
In his address, Governor Goodluck Jonathan of Bayelsa State called on the youths and elders of the host communities to always embrace peace, warning that strangulation of the projects would not be in the best interest of both the communities and the entire country.
Commending the efforts of the out-going administration, especially the allocation of oil blocks to the state, the governor said it would go a long way in addressing the problem of unemployment in the region.
Unlike in the past when the state was allocated marginal field, the governor said with the allocation of oil blocks, investors would be interested in the state.
He also called on the management of the BLNG to always consider the people of the state in the scheme of things especially in the area of employment.
In his address, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Funsho Kupolokun, said BLNG was determined to accomplish its set milestones, particularly with the export of its first LNG cargo 2012.