Chevron Fire: Bayelsa Government Backs Down Amidst Renewed Tension



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The State governor of Bayelsa State, Barrister Seriake Dickson may have acted to avert an unfolding communal crisis within the southern Ijaw communities of Bayelsa State. This is as information recently made available to through sources near the activities within the affected communities indicate that the State administration may have sensed the growing tension within the communities affected by the January 16, 2012 gas fire by Chevron oil company – and may have initiated steps aimed at dousing the tension.

A source within the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment reveals that the State government has begun dialoguing with the oil multinational over amiable ways to douse what appears unfolding community unrest. The oil multinational, on their part, is said to be unsettled by the suit filed by the previous Bayelsa State government at the Federal High Court Abuja over the matter. They requested for the State government to withdraw the case as a condition for Chevron to come to the settlement table.  According to our source, the State government agreed.  On the next scheduled hearing date of October 3, 2012 at Court 4, the state government is expected to address the court – stating that they are no longer willing to proceed with the case.

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Last week, the affected communities issued a warning to the Chevron offices in Nigeria of their intentions – should the oil multinational refuse to settle the community financially and timely. The warning included the violent invasion of Chevron’s offices.

It is recalled – following the gas fire disaster, experts from the federal government in tandem with experts from Chevron evaluated the extent of damage caused by the gas fire which had burned non-stop for 46days. At the conclusion of the joint evaluation exercise, both teams reached a consensus on the extent of damage. They agreed the ecosystem of the shoreline communities of Bayelsa State were negatively impacted by the fire. Settlement was recommended. But the oil multinational, for reasons that remain unclear, was not forthcoming. They short all lines of communication with the affected community. This prompted the then governor of Bayelsa State; Chief Timipre Sylva filed a suit against the oil multinational at a Federal High Court in Abuja. The suit sought damages on the part of the oil company.

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Meanwhile, sources reveal that former militants for communities within south Ijaw have begun veiled mobilization of youths and community leaders against what is believed to be a move to redeem their threat.

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