By Andy Chukwu
Members of host communities of the 2nd Niger Bridge have shut down activities at Julius Berger Construction Company Office, Bridge Head Onitsha, Anambra State in protest against what they alleged was a failure by the company to keep to the agreement with them.
The ten host communities to the project located between Onitsha, Anambra State and Asaba, Delta State are protesting over unfulfilled agreements by the company and alleged high handednes of Mr. Fredrich Wieser, its Project Director.
The ten host communities, five from Anambra State, namely Onitsha, Obosi, Okpoko, Harbour, Odoekpe, while the others from Delta, being Oko Amakom, Asaba, Idoko Madu, Power Line, and Okwei, warned that Julius Berger worker is not welcomed in their communities unless the disagreement was resolved.
The Community Liaison Officers accused Wieserr of high handedness, refusal to keep to the local content agreement with them and racism in discharging his duties.
Displaying placards with inscriptions as “Wieser must go he is arrogant”, “The Project Director is a racist, “Project Director does not respect the host community”, “Host communities are not baggers”, “Julius Berger does not respect the terms of the MOU with host communities”, and many others.
The protesting host communities who were joined by the workers alleged that they are subjected to all insulting treatment by Wieser and his foreign counterparts.
Mr. Peter Okafor, a Community Liaison Officer, said that the ten host communities want Wieser to leave Onitsha and should be replaced by somebody who is approachable and can handle the communities with respect.
“Julius Berger and their Project Director, Mr. Wieser has been maltreating the communities, they use the Project Director to deny the communities their rights, the man is unapproachable, and lacks respect for the host communities, does not respect the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the communities have with them.
“He sacked almost 90 percent of indigenous workers, both skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers contrary to our local content agreement and has been employing his friends and foreigners, we are supposed to be given contracts like supplying of sand, stones, and other small contracts as contained in the local content agreement, but he has refused to honour the agreement,” he said.
Chief Chuma Agbakoba, the Adazi Ogulani of Onitsha and Liaison Officer for Onitsha Community and his Delta State Counterpart, Mr. Henry Enebeli, said that Wieser must leave the project site for work to continue otherwise work must stop at the 2nd Niger Bridge.
“We are not saying that work should stop on 2nd Niger Bridge, but we are saying that the Project Director Mr. Wieser, must leave, he does not have regards for the host communities and does not have manners of approach to the communities and above all, he is exhibits racist behaviours and we can no more tolerate that,” Agbakoba said.
“Mr. Wieser is very high handed, that there are a lot of benefits given to host communities that the Project Director is denying us, and other local contents agreement we entered with the company which he has been denying us, we want him to be replaced by another person.”
Enebeli on his part said, “some of our communities cannot access their homes in Delta State, they have blocked our roads with sand and we have been begging and writing the Project Director since July, to instruct his men to clear the heaps of sands so we can access our communities, but he ignored us, we use canoe to move in our areas now.
“We appealed to him to instead of sacking our people on redundancy because he is saying they are not working because of rains, he should give them stood off so they can start when the rains are over but he refused,” he said.
Engineer Ajani Adeyemo, Federal Controller of Works, Anambra State, in response said he has tried to intervene in the matter, he claimed started two weeks ago, he, however, noted that the demands of the host communities are complicated.