From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Over 50 communities in Edo State on the platform of Concerned Edo Youths yesterday, barricaded the operational office of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) along Airport Road, Benin over alleged marginalization of host communities.
The protesting communities who besieged the gate of the office as early as 7am, were clad in red and were armed with placards of various inscriptions that read thus: “NPDC, enough is enough, PIB law must be adhered to strictly, NPDC, our protest is our right”
The protesters, in demonstration of their seriousness, came with a live cow which they slaughtered at the entrance gate, two big pots and two bags of rice which they cooked and shared among themselves.
Speaking with newsmen at the gate, Ovbokhan Igbinovia, one of the heads of the communities in Okhoromi in Oredo local government areas of the state, said they are very happy that the company was sited at the community but it is quite unfortunate that the various host communities have not felt the impact of the company.
He said the communities have written several letters to the company and they have not gotten any response from them.
” We are 52 communities. The reason why we are here is because of NPDC. We are happy that a company like this is situated here in Iyekogba village but we are not also happy because we are not working there.
‘Our youths, our children are not being employed. Series of letters have been written to them ever since last year.
” They have not responded. So the youths and elders of the communities have deemed it fit to possess our rights with peaceful demonstration for them to recognize us that we are the indigenes of the community where they are residing presently.
“If you check across the roads, you will see that those roads have not been tared, in where this project is, if you check the schools, none of them is being renovated”, Ovbokhan said.
He listed their demands as thus: NPDC must empower and engage the youths of great Benin Kingdom, awarding the maintenance contract of NPDC Headquarters office, Benin to a company in Kaduna is fraudulent and a total disregard of our local content rights under the PIB law.
He also said that their other demands are that the contract of maintenance of NPDC office can’t be given to a foreigner in Edo land and how long will NPDC and government disregard the sensitivity of Edo youths?
Another community leader, Sylvester Eweka said the company is taking the people of the state for a right and that such can no longer be tolerated adding that they could approach the Oba who gave the company the land to revoke it because they are not benefiting from it.
“They know what they call the local contents. It is as if they are looking at the Benins as a second class citizens which are not.
“The only clearing of grass which should have been given to the host communities, was given to a company in Kaduna. It doesn’t speak well at all.
“We are asking the management to withdraw that contract immediately and give it back to the host communities.
“They said this land was given freely to the company by the Oba of Benin and do you know why he did that? So that his people can get jobs.
“We can go back to our father and said the land you gave out, is not yielding any benefits to us and we want him to take it back from them”, he said.
Responding for the oil firm, Mr. Nowe Dumbra, from the Community Relations Department, said the management will invite them as soon as possible to address their grievances
“We came in this morning and we met this peaceful protesters already at the gate.
“At this instance, even if the top management are to come in, how would he has come in? It is not possible but however, I have reached out to my manager because truly the protesters are community based and actually it should be handled by the Community Relations Department.
“And my manager, I have spoken with him and he has told me to appeal to them, get the list of their grievances, present it to the top management of NPDC and they will be invited for a meeting immediately with their leaders so that they can discuss”, he said.