By Tife Owolabi
(Yenagoa) Nigeria’s crude oil export may witness a shortfall following the stoppage of production at the Santa Barbara flow-station owned by Aiteo, a Nigerian energy conglomerate.
Aggrieved locals, mainly chiefs, elders, women, youths of an oil-bearing community, Opu Nembe Kingdom of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on Saturday protested against the oil major over what they described as ”unfair treatment ” to them.
In their palpable dissatisfaction, issued a quit notice to the oil company with effect from November 14, 2020, to leave the Oil Mining Licence (OML 29).
At a presser, the head of chiefs, Oriaingo Oruwari, said their actions are borne out of frustration, economic sabotage, strangulation, ecological destruction, contract racketeering by Aiteo.
He said for five years since Shell Petroleum Development Company allegedly surreptitiously sold OML 29 to Aiteo without any consideration of host communities’ pending legal and equitable rights, it had been anguish on all sides for the communities.
“The chiefs, elders, women, youths and all people of Opu Member are tired of the Aiteo punishment. Simply put, Aiteo and whoever its officials and private collaborators maybe is practically killing its host communities, particularly Opu Nembe.”
“It has become so unbearable through these years, and worst in recent months, that community women and youths were provoked to peacefully occupy the Santa Barbara flow station and the Oceans field flow station in protest from Wednesday, November 11.
“We are aware that kinsmen and women from our sister host kingdom have also peacefully occupied Aiteo installations for some days now, in a similar protest.”
“As community leaders, we applied civilised methods of seeking redress, including lawsuits, petitions to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, Nigerian Oil Spill Detection, and Response Agency and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and informal channels too.
“But most of the official and regulatory agencies for pursuing our grievances are so distant, so aloof, so unconcerned, so unresponsive, chasing shadows and at best excruciatingly slow. Impoverished as our communities are, we are often forced to beg and borrow, put our sweat, toilsnc tears together just to follow up complaints with various official or legal channels involving repeated logistics, travels, and other challenges – to little or no avail.
“These frustrations have now pushed our youths and women to make their case through the peaceful occupation of Aiteo’s production locations.”
He said the communities, frustrated and exasperated, had in solidarity with the protesting people had to address the press conference to issue the quit notice to Aiteo and their alleged fraudulent front contractors so that they could stop trespassing their territory and leave promptly.”
”The oil company had been strangulating the communities’ already stretched subsistence economy by even owing the few sub-contracted community members for years and months, including surveillance contractors/workers protecting their pipelines and vendors supplying food to their workers in the process of rendering them so weak to justify replacing them with more proxies or middlemen.” Oruwari said.
They also accused the company of employing negligible numbers of community people on casual employment at that and deplorable terms of psy and working conditions including poor safety provisions.
Oruwari also accused the oil major of inundating their environment with repeated, massive, prolonged oil spillages and blow-out fires to possibly the most reckless, inefficient, and hazardous oil field practices thus refusing to clean up, remediate and pay compensation for years.
He equally accused Aiteo of refusing to negotiate a fair Memorandum of Understanding with the kingdom since it came over five years ago and allegedly failing continuously on mere courtesies like diesel supplies for communities, throwing them into the pitch darkness.