The peace building efforts of the Nigerian federal government through Vice President Yemi Osibanjo in the Niger Delta may be heading for the rocks as Chevron Nigeria Ltd, one of the leading multinational oil firm operating in the Niger Delta has allegedly refused employing graduates of its vocational training programme for six years running.
In a tensed press conference organized in Warri, the oil city of Delta state, leaders of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, told journalists that the action of Chevron towards youths of the firm’s host communities is one major cause of the continual rising tension in the volatile Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
President of the IYC, Eric Omare, who presided over the conference, explained that while Chevron has continually refused to engage its trainees that have been on ground for the past six years, the oil firm has continuously engaged others from outside the host communities.
Hence, Omare said: “We wish to put on record that it is discriminatory treatment such as this that is responsible for the persistent crisis in the oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta region and the grievances of the host communities against multinationals such as Chevron.
“The Chevron’s discriminatory treatment of host community indigenes in their employment is already causing tension in Chevron operational areas in the Niger Delta region and may lead to disruption of oil and gas operations if urgent steps are not taken to address the issue.”
Omare told journalists that traditional rulers of Gbaramatu kingdom, HRM Agadagba of Gbaramatu Kingdom have tried all possible avenues to prevail on Chevron to address the issue but all efforts yielded no results.
The IYC president said Chevron deliberately refused to employ products of the vocational training programme (VTC 5 and 6) who are mainly from their host communities of Ijaw, Itsekiri and Ilaje despite the fact that previous trainees who are mainly from outside host communities were employed.
He said those employed from outside host communities constitute VTP 1 to 4 who are mainly from outside host communities were all employed.
“The VTP 5 and 6 has the highest number of indigenes of host communities. Before the commencement of the training they were asked to resign all their previous employments. The training has been completed for the past six years and Chevron refused to engage them.
“There have been several protests by the beneficiaries and host communities stakeholders to states and federal government, traditional rulers, Chevron, National Assembly and even security agencies, all to no avail.”
He said Chevron earlier promised to engage them as soon as the oil price in the international market improves, however, the price has improved but Chevron refused to engage them.
He alleged that the refusal of Chevron to engage the trainees was because they are from the host communities.
He said Chevron adopts two set of employment policy for their workers in operation, while one is for the host communities, the other for those from outside the host communities and family members of top management staff of Chevron.
He said those from host communities are employed as technicians whereas those from outside the host communities are employed as engineers.
Omare said the oil firm organized aptitude test for prospective employees from outside the host communities in Abuja last year where several engineers were employed whereas host community indigenes were abandoned.
Following the action of Chevron, the IYC president said the aggrieved stakeholders especially the youths may be forced to take their destiny into their hands.
He therefore called on the Delta, Ondo, Bayelsa and the federal governments to act now before it is too late.
He insisted that Chevron should be directed to, as a matter of urgency, employ all the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Ilaje community indigenes who went through the Chevron VTP 5 and 6 without further delay.
But, according to Bigpen online, Chevron’s General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, (PGPA), Esimaje Brikinn, didn’t respond to calls or text message sent across to his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, an earlier response to a similar community agitation against Chevron last December indicated that the company did not give the Vocational Training Programme (VTP) to host community indigenes with a promise of employment after training, adding that its employment policy was guided by human capacity needs.
Chevron’s Sola Adebawo, who issued a statement on behalf of the General Manager PGPA, had said it only provided the trainings as part of its corporate social responsibility to host communities, adding that it was meant to prepare them to be suitable for any opening in the oil and gas industry, but not meant to be an automatic employment criteria into CNL.
“Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) is an equal opportunities employer and does not discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, religion, color, age, ethnicity, disability or any other basis. Employment into the company is dependent on organizational needs and business requirements.
“CNL’s effort to sponsor trainees for the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Vocational Training Programme (VTP) was a corporate social responsibility initiative intended to help build the skills and capacity of the participants from the local communities, to be capable of delivering world-class O&M performance in the oil and gas industry.
“With the skills acquired from the programme, several of the participants have been able to get employment within the oil and gas industry. CNL did not represent or guarantee that it would hire the trainees at the time of graduation from the programme.
“CNL will continue to encourage as many people from the communities around the areas of our operation, who are qualified for employment, to apply to the Company whenever there are vacancies. Unfortunately, these opportunities do not exist right now”, the company said.