Tony John, Port Harcourt
Security, they say, is everybody’s responsibility. Gone are days, when security agencies carried out surveillance alone. Nowadays, communities, groups, and oil companies complement efforts of security agencies in safeguarding the environment.
Recently, people of Rumuji Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, particularly women, expressed their disappointment over companies operating in their area. Reason: They claimed that the firms had not shown interest in the security of community.
The aggrieved women took their anger in protest to one of the companies’ sites. They alleged abysmal neglect and said “enough is enough.”
The chiefs, elders, men and youths of the community besieged the premise of an oil servicing firm and grounded activities in the company. They threatened that they would shut down the company for 14 days, unless their needs were addressed.
The Rumuji Community Development Committee chairman, Godswill Osimini, said the community was protesting neglect and marginalisation by the company. He added that they needed a clearly written memorandum of understanding (MoU) and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the firm’s operations.
The CDC chairman claimed that more than 1,550 plots of land were leased to the firm in 2015. He disclosed that there were no MoU and EIA reports on the operations of the firm.
Osimini said: “We are here to tell them that enough is enough. The company took this land, over 1,550 plots, on lease in 2015 and MoU is not written and no EIA report. If they employ our people, they are not paying them well.
“We have invited them for a meeting; they refused. What we need now is to see the managing director of the company and discuss with him,” he said.
The CDC chairman noted the menace of soot that has endangered the lives of people resident in Rumuji community and it environs.
He said: “If you come to our houses and put a basin outside, you observe soot, and we want them to show us the EIA report. Yet, they are shying away from it.”
According to him, the Rumuji community spends much in maintaining a local vigilance group known as OSPAC in providing security for the people and society. He regretted that companies in the area have abandoned them to their fate.
They vowed to sustain the protest for two weeks until positive things are done to improve Rumuji’s security.
He declared that: “We want fresh negotiation with the company. There is peace today because of the OSPAC we have. We are spending a lot of money and they are here because there is peace in this community.
“When we request for support, they will say they are paying tax to the government. They have refused to support us. We will be here for 14 days until they hear us,” Osimini said.
Also, Justina Okporo, a woman leader in the community, said the community was recently affected by the gas flared by the company. She called for better treatment of the community by company.
She said, with the disharmony between the host community and the oil firm, the natives had lost faith in the integrity of company. She noted that what Rumuji people wanted was the review of the MoU. She wondered why the MoU between the two parties lasted 30 years without being reviewed.
She said: “There is much environmental impact as a result of their operation here. The heat from their gas flaring is causing us heat waves.
“We are against them now until they review the MoU they entered with the community. Where in this world that MoU will last for 30 years without review?”
Also, Mrs. Charity Ejiowhor decried health challenges of their people resulting from gas flaring. She said no excuse would justify the negligence by the operating firms.
She said: “Our health is deteriorating on a daily basis due to the soot produced by the companies. We don’t know why our people should be treated this way.
“The protest you are witnessing today is to draw the company’s attention to their corporate social responsibility to our community. We are not stopping their operation outright. We are the host community and the owners of the company should know all this, and, therefore, do the right”, Ejiowhor declared.