From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Aggrieved people of Koluama community and its satellite camps in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have shut down an oil production facility owned by the Conoil Producing Limited.
According to investigations, the people were irked over the alleged refusal by the oil company to renew an expired Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with the host communities.
The breached oil facility known as Angle 2 field, operated by Conoil since 2012, has a crude production capacity of over 30,000 barrels per day.
The aggrieved people, including women, youths, and elders, stormed the facility on Monday armed with placards with inscription such as “No GMoU, No Crude oil exploration”, Conoil pack, and Go, We are tired of suffering” and “Koluama people are suffering”, demanded the shut down of operations at the facility.
Sources said, in order to immediately douse tensions, officials of Conoil advised armed soldiers and other security personnel not to engage the protesters and decided to shut down its operation.
The protesters were, however, not satisfied with the action and vowed to occupy the oil platform until their demands on scholarships and education issues, employment of indigenes and the provision of electricity through the building of a turbine are met by the company through the signing of a new and workable GMoU.
The Youth President of Koluama Community, Mr Kiwei Emmanuel Philip, explained in an interview that the community is tired of manipulations by Conoil management since the former GMoU expired over 14 months ago.
‘We have come here to occupy and sack the Conoil. They are operating in our community without a GMoU. Our people do not even have a person working in the company at the moment. We cannot accommodate them anymore,’ he said.
Woman Leader China Ezekhia said the women and the youths are facing hardships without employment. They vowed to sustain the occupation of the platform.
The Oil and Gas Chairman of Kolumama communities, Ebimielayefa Dick Ogbeyan, while addressing the security personnel on duty, said the communities embarked on the protest because all efforts to seek an amicable settlement had failed.
‘From inception, Conoil have never employed our indigenes. We sat together and agreed on a GMoU, but they failed to implement it all. And now, it has expired over 14 months ago and they have refused to sign another one,’ he said.
‘We have done all that is needed to be done but they refused. We have met leaders of security agencies, governments, and other stakeholders to prevail on Conoil but they refused. The stakeholders agreed with us on this action. The community wants them to pack peacefully, We know we are not getting anything and we are not expecting anything. They cannot be getting so much from oil exploration from our land and we are not getting anything.
‘We are here to carefully and peacefully ask them to pack without bloodshed. There should be no quarrel or fighting. The people of Koluama communities are tired with Conoil.’