Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Aggrieved women drawn from 40 crude oil producing communities in Brass, Ekeremor and Southern Ijaw local government areas of Bayelsa State on Friday stormed the Yenagoa office of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), demanding N20billion as compensation from the Federal Government.
According to them, the compensation is for the alleged toxic pollution that killed thousands of fishes in coastal communities in Bayelsa and Rivers states early this year.
The protesting women armed with placards with inscriptions such as: “NDDC, our people are helplessly starving,” “Come and provide funds for our business,” “Empower us, we are devastated by the ecological disaster,” and “Why is NDDC robbing impoverished oil host communities that fought for establishment of NDDC,” called on the commission to intervene urgently on the issues of erosion and ocean surge that are gradually pushing their communities into extinction.
One of the protesters, Sophia Ogunu from Ekeni community in Southern Ijaw, said that they are protesting over the many years of neglect they have suffered in the hands of the Federal Government and international oil companies.
She lamented that since fishes were mysteriously found dead in the communities along the Atlantic coast, they have not got any form of succour or support from the interventionist agency.
“What we are protesting for is that we communities that come from Niger Delta, including Southern Ijaw, are suffering. Everybody knows how wealthy the Niger Delta region is yet we are protesting over neglect. We are women from Ekeremor, Southern-Ijaw and Brass local government areas, protesting today and that goes to show how huge the problem is. Early this year fishes in our water died without anybody knowing the cause,” she said.
Another protester, Inekinimi Alfred, from Azagbene community in Ekeremor Local Government Area, bemoaned the situation whereby crude oil exploration activity in the community has destroyed her farmland, which serves as her primary means of livelihood.
“The essence of this protest is that the Federal Government will send foreigners and they will come to our communities, drill our crude oil and the rest. They will pollute our rivers, kill all the fishes and even make the river water that we have been using for domestic proposes useless and leave us in poverty. If you plant, no crop will germinate because crude oil has polluted everywhere,” she claimed.
Addressing the women, the Principal Manager of the NDDC liaison office in Yenagoa, Mr Diete Amiefamonyo, said that the Commission is desirous to lift the people of the region out of poverty, but suggested that the women channel their grievances through writing to the Commission.