… As Eyengho, Omadeli, Company Trade Words
Following the abandonment of its Corporate Social Responsibility to the people of Ugborodo community in Itsekiri, Warri South West Local Government of Delta State coupled with perpetual discrimination and non-recognition of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), formed by Chevron Nigeria Limited, the people of Ugborodo community have laid siege on the company with a vow to never relent until their demands are met.
Perturbed by the insistence of the community not to vacate siege on the company, the state Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has invited the Ugborodo people, Chevron Nigeria Limited and heads of security agencies in the state to a meeting at Asaba, the capital, on Monday, following the siege to the oil company, since Tuesday by enraged villagers.
It was established that visit of the Commissioner of Police, Director, Department of Security Services (DSS), in the state, representatives of the Navy and Army Commanders in Warri to the troubled community on Thursday to prevail on the protesters to vacate the company met brick walls.
President of Ugborodo Youths, Mr. Ofem Nene, who corroborated with the community said they were aware of Monday’sinvitation by the governor, reiterating that “We will not vacate the company, our protest is peaceful and we are not going to blow up the company’s facility”.
“In addition, we are not harassing any worker, but we will send delegation to Asaba to honour the governor, but our people will remain here until the delegation returns from Asaba to brief us”.
“Otherwise, our stand before now was that we were not interested in any mediation by the state government, we want the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru ”, he added.
An impeccable source noted that the community would meet to examine the issues that led to the protest and take a common stand ahead of their meeting with the governor on Monday.
However, spokesperson of the Ogidigben Export Processing Zone (EPZ), Interface Committee, the peace-building group currently running the community’s affairs, Mr, Alex Eyengho, said, “What is happening there is being carried out by grossly misled few rebels in Ugborodo.
They are rebelling against the decision of the Delta state government, the Olu of Warri, Pa JOS Ayomike and of course, they are rebels against law and order.
“The IMC, and the duo who fabricated it, Olajori (Spiritual Head) of Ugborodo, Benson Omadeli and his cousin, Sandys Uvwoh against the will of Ugborodo and the decision of a court of competent jurisdiction are behind this illegality and potentially dangerous protest.
“They are doing all these to arm-twist Chevron to recognize the IMC, led by Emma Meke. For the avoidance of doubt, the only management structure for the entire Ugborodo as of today is the expanded EPZ Interface Committee under the leadership of Austin Oborogbeyi. Security agencies should do the needful by treated the isolated characters as rebels”, Eyengho stated.
He urged security agents “to step in and do the needful by treating these isolated characters as rebels and dangerous trouble makers that they really are.”
Responding to Eyengho’s diatribe, former chair, Ugborodo Community Trust, Mr. Sandys Omadeli insisted that, “Any attempt to settle the lingering issue must be done in Ugborodo or inside Chevron yard. In addition, the Delta state government must only act as observers. The Ugborodo people no longer have faith in a subjective government.
“The issue in dispute is that Chevron refused to recognize the IMC, the collective decision of the community put in place since March, this year, and they are dealing with the factional leaders whose tenure have elapsed.”
“This issue has been on for six months and nobody has showed concern on resolving it. The old leaders have the backing of the state government and Chevron is stressing that the IMC must have government backing before it can accord it recognition. I do not know where government has started appointing leaders for communities,” he added.
Omadeli asserted: “We are told that DSS officials trying to pacify the protesters said they are looking into the issue. That is empty talk. The DSS as we use to know them should have been able to advice government on how best to go since the past six months.”
Chevron, through its Upstream Media Relations Advisor, Isabel Ordonez, in a statement, said: “Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, operator of the Joint Venture between Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and Chevron Nigeria Limited (the NNPC/CNL JV) confirms that at about 13.00 pm on August 9, 2016, some members of Ugborodo community gathered at one of the gates of our Escravos facility.”
“They are asking for the recognition of the Ugborodo community Interim Management Committee, IMC, and also requesting CNL to recognize the Ugborodo Community Trust, among others.
“CNL does not interfere in the internal affairs of communities in the areas of operations, including Ugborodo. We continue to engage the protesters and key community leaders and stakeholders including the state government and hope for peaceful resolution of the situation shortly.” it said.