Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Protesters from the ten quarters of Oleh town in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State have accused the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) of marginalisation in its operation in the area.
The quarters include Adoke, Egbedemi, Ovuorien, Eraro, Ebave, Oko, Olulu/Atedezi, Okparo/Edubi and Emiye.
The natives, in a demonstration at the company’s premises, allege that the multinational oil firm has neglected the host communities over the years, adding that it has consistently failed to employ people of as well as develop the area.
They called on the federal and state governments to prevail on the company to accede to their demands, saying that the company should not take their peaceful disposition for granted.
Youth chairman of the community, Prince Erube Oghogho, said Oleh community has 5 oil wells operated by Agip, berating what he observed as the company’s nonchalant attitude to the challenges faced by the community.
He alleged that the oil giant has failed to employ or provide basic amenities for the people in spite of the heavy noise pollution emanating from the company’s operations which has led to the cracking of several houses around the Agip facility.
“We are here to protest Agip’s neglect and marginalisation of our community. We have cried to them severally but they have refused to listen to us,” Oghogho said.
“They promised to build a flow station here after drilling their 5th oil well here, but as we speak they haven’t done anything in that regard, yet they are planning to drill a 6th well.
“The company looks down on us because we are peaceful people and they feel we are nobody before them. We are landlords and we are entitled to the benefits of the oil that is here.
“The lands that our fathers and mothers were farming on they have collected from us. They didn’t pay what was expected of them. They have been tricking us over the years.
“Despite all the oil they drill from our land, no single Oleh son works in the company as a direct staff. What they give to us is casual work, and after three months they retrench them.
“Sometime ago they trained some of our youths on skill acquisition since then they haven’t presented any starter packs to them.
“Now, our mothers are here saying enough is enough; if they don’t employ their youths and empower the women they are not going back home again.”
A resident in the area, Joseph Okolo, faulted Agip’s noise test of the facility, saying due process was not followed since key stakeholders were not involved in the process.
He added that the noise level and vibrations from the facility was beyond an acceptable level as it has resulted in the cracking of buildings around the facility, with resultant health hazards to residents.
A woman leader in the community, Ruth Odaro, lamented the destruction of farmlands by the activities of the oil company.
The Delta State Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Emmanuel Amgbaduba, appealed to the protesters to approach the ministry with a letter stating the issues raised in the protest.
He noted that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was committed to ensuring peaceful relations between oil companies and host communities.
“I appeal to the protesters to desist from protests. I know it is within their rights to protest but in the interest of life and property, I want to appeal to them to write a letter to the Ministry of Oil and Gas identifying all the issues raised at the protest,” he said.
“We have a Governor who has all ears open and he listens to complains of that nature. So, if they have any complaint concerning labour issues, flow stations or anything contract related, they should write to the Ministry of Oil and Gas, we are quite ready to look into it by calling both parties or stakeholders together and proffer solution.
“In Delta State, we have a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) which guides the activities of oil companies and their host communities. With such GMoUs, we capture the interest of the communities, the oil companies and the government and, I can assure them, that no interests will be left out since all parties must be present during the signing of such GMoUs,” he said.