Angry Ijaw youths, Friday, took over Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) gas pipelines project after chasing away workers from the site in Abeteye, Escravos, near Warri, Delta State.
This came as the Nigerian Navy denied giving approval to any firm to commence the evacuation of petroleum products from wrecked vessels arrested by the military for illegal oil bunkering activities in the Niger Delta region.
The protesting youths said they were against the recently renewed Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) between Chevron Nigeria Limited, Egbema/Gbaramatu Communities Development Foundation and the Delta State Government in which their community was allegedly misrepresented.
They were also furious on the failure of Chevron to provide basic social amenities for their community.
The angry youths, numbering over 500, stormed the 16-inch gas pipelines being constructed for Chevron from the Abiteye Flow station to Escravos, seized it and chased out the workers.
The fierce-looking Ijaw youths said they were not comfortable with the GMoU and the foot-dragging of Chevron to sand fill Benikrukru community, pile it and sweep the canals in their community. They also protested what they described as the failure of Chevron to define their stake in the regional development council.
According to the youths, their representatives from Benikrukru community who signed the GMoU never got the approval of the community to do so. They added that besides the GMoU, Chevron failed to provide the community with amenities needed badly.
It would be recalled that at the wake of the signing of the GMoU, members of the Benikrukru community, after an emergency meeting held on November 13, sanctioned those who signed the GMoU and threatened to mobilise women and children in the days ahead to cripple the Abiteye Flowstation and other facilities of Chevron.
They made good this threat yesterday when they seized the multi-billion naira gas pipelines project of the oil giant being handled by an indigenous firm.
It was learnt that the protesting youths arrived the site with several boats and ordered all workers from site, but no one was hurt.
Chairman of Benikrukru community, Chief Jeffrey Ojogun, when contacted, described the action as a tip of the iceberg in view of what will happen to other facilities of the company in the coming days.
He claimed that Chevron was trying to cause disaffection and disunity in Benikrukru community, imploring the company to stop meddling in the affairs of Benikrukru community in the interest of peace.
“We want to warn that this is just the beginning of our planned action against Chevron Nigeria Limited, a company that has murdered sleep in our community and we have vowed not to allow the company to know peace,” he stated.
According to him, “Apart from the issue of the vexed GMoU, we are demanding from Chevron the sand-filling of our community, pilling of the community, sweeping of the canals and our stake in the regional council; and these demands must be addressed urgently by the company.”
All efforts to get reactions from Chevron officials proved abortive as at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, the Naval Headquarters, Abuja has denied giving approval to any firm to commence the evacuation of petroleum products from wrecked vessels arrested by the military for illegal oil bunkering activities in the Niger Delta region.
Making this clarification, the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOPs), Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogboi, noted that there was no truth in the claim by a firm, Fenix Impex Nig. Ltd., that an approval had been given for evacuation operation along the Delta coastal area.
According to him, “We have not issued approval to Fenix Impex or any other firm to commence the evacuation of product from any seized vessel in Niger Delta waterways and we do not intend to until the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) provided answers to very many questions we have asked them concerning this exercise.”
Ogboi, stated further: “We have been asking DPR to furnish us with detail information as to the nature of the product in these vessels, estimated quantities, the destination of the evacuated products and hazards posed in the course of the exercise. But up till now, we are yet to receive such information.
“We cannot therefore issue any approval to any company when we are yet to get these details, so it will amount to fraudulent act and mischief for any firm to come up to say the Navy has given it approval to commence evacuation.”
He described such claim as false, baseless and unfounded. He also advised security agents to be on their guard to ensure the arrest of any vessel seen on the waterways claiming to be on evacuation operation based on the approval from the Naval Command.
It would be recalled that in 2009, two vessels, MT Concept and Ezomo, came up with similar claim of evacuating a seized vessel at the Warri Jetty but such approval was later discovered to be fake.
Investigation revealed that the claim of evacuation was a diversionary tactics being used by illegal oil bunkerers to carry out their illicit oil deal, as they often present the approval document as a way of beating the watching eyes of security agents while embarking on their nefarious activities.
** Reporting by Joe Ogbodu in Warri, Delta State.