By Onome Oghenetega
The people of Oleh community in the Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State have protested the alleged marginalisation and pollution in the community by operations of oil multinational, Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
They also accused the oil firm of failing develop and create employment opportunities for youths of the area since they began operation in the area.
At peaceful protest organized by indigenes of the community numbering over 3,000 including youths and aged women on Saturday, they posited that the action of the oil giant, if not quickly nipped by federal and the Delta State government could lead to unrest in the area.
According to them, the Federal and State governments should prevail on the company to accede to their demands, adding that the company should not take their peaceful disposition for granted.
The aggrieved protesters were drawn from 10 families including Adoke, Egbedemi, Ovuorien, Eraro, Ebave, Oko, Olulu/Atedezi, Okparo/Edubi and Emiye that made up Oleh Community and host to the oil multinational.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, the youth Chairman of the Oleh Community Oil landlords, Prince Erube Oghogho, said Oleh community has five oil wells operated by Agip but decried the Company’s non-chalant attitude to the challenges facing the community.
He also said the oil multinational had failed to employ or provide basic amenities for the people despite the heavy noise pollution emanating from the company’s operations which has led to the cracking of several houses around the Agip facility.
Oghogho explained, “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. 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 works 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.”
The placards carrying protesters with inscriptions such as; “Stop marginalising Oleh community”, “We need flow station”, “Give our youths direct employment”, “Pay us for the noise pollution and cracking of our buildings” among others.
Also similarly speaking, Engr. Okolo Joseph, a resident in the area 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 acceptable level as it has resulted in the cracking of buildings around the facility with resultant health hazards to residents.
Also speaking, Mrs Ruth Odaro, a community woman leader lamented the destruction of their farmlands by the activities of the oil company.
When contacted, Delta State Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Chief Emmanuel Amgbaduba appealed to the protesters to shelve the protest and 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.
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“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.
“We have a Governor who has all ears open and he listens to complains of that nature, so if they have any complain concerning labour issues, flow stations or anything contract related against, 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