Uyo—Palpable tension is mounting in oil rich Akwa Ibom State as oil producing communities in Oron ethnic nationality, yesterday, took to the streets of Oron town to vent their anger over alleged marginalization by the state government and the multinational oil firms operating in the area.
The protesters mainly youths, men and women, were drawn from the five local government areas of Mbo, Okobo, Udung Uko, Urue Offong-Oruko and Oron respectively. In another development, the people of Rumuji community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, have shut down Greenville Liquefied Natural Gas operating in their area following alleged neglect by the firm.
The chiefs, elders, men and youths of the community, who stormed the premises of Greenville around 7a.m., yesterday, stopped activities in the company, stated that they would continue to shutdown the company for 14 days unless their needs are addressed. In Oron town, the commercial town was locked down as vehicular movement and economic activities were halted for over three hours the protest lasted as the busy Uya Oro junction leading to the town and also gateway to Eket was blocked. Banks in the town closed shops in the rush hours as customers with cheques were stranded, while other customers were directed to the ATM, which had long queues for transactions. No fewer than 10 Police security vehicles were deployed by the state police command to forestall a possible breakdown of law and order, though the protesters were peaceful. The protesters dressed in black, drummed and chanted anti government songs, with placards and banners bearing inscriptions such as, ‘Is oil thicker than blood? Oro youth say no to continued marginalization,’ ‘So much evil done to us. The goose that lay the golden egg,’ ‘Exxon Mobil and others must recognise Oro or leave,’ ‘Enough is enough,’ ‘Akwa Ibom Government is a threat to peace,’ among others. Various speakers including, Omen Bassey, Patryk Edeke, Victor Mkpofor, Christian Nyong and Francis Otioro all lamented the alleged marginalization of the area in the scheme of things by the government and oil firms, despite the fact that the area produces the highest oil quantum from the state to the national purse. The convener of the protest under the auspices of Oro Youth Congress, Lovestic Eyo, a lawyer in a seven point communiqué, called on the federal and state governments as well as the oil companies to implement the resolutions by the National Assembly and the National Executive Council without further delay so as to engender peace and give the communities a sense of belonging. The statement maintained that the state government has over the years ignored the ‘’tripod arrangement as proposed by our fore father s during the creation of the state, which has led to the absolute marginalization and neglect of Oro people for obvious and unknown reasons’’. He said they demand a dialogue with government and the oil companies within 14 days, adding that failure to “Do this will compel us to mobilise and lead the entire Oro nation for a protest at Aso Rock and National Assembly. “Finally, if the government continues to pay deaf ears to our demands, we shall not hesitate to explore other means for our survival and those of our children.” Rivers community shuts down firm In Rumuji , chairman of the Community Development Committee, Godswill Osimini, said they need a clearly written Memorandum of Understanding, MoU and an Environmental Impact Assessment,EIA, report of the firms operations. Osimini said: “We are here to tell Greenville that enough is enough. They took over 1550 plots on lease in 2015 and MoU was not written and no EIA report. Our people they employed, they are not paying them well. “We have invited them for a meeting, they refused to attend. What we need now is to see the Managing Director of the company to discuss with him. We want them to show us the EIA report, which they are shying away from. “We want fresh negotiation with the company. There is peace today because of the OSPAC we have. We are spending a lot of money and they are here because there is peace in this community. When we requested for support, they said they are paying tax to the government. They have refused to support us. We will be here for 14 days until they hear us.” Also, Justina Okporo, a woman leader in the community, said the community was affected by the gas flared by the company, calling for better treatment of the community by Greenville. She said: “There is much environmental impact from their operations here. The fire from their gas flaring is causing us heat. “We are against them now until they review the MoU they entered with the community. Where in this world would an MoU last for 30 years without being renewed? At press time, the management of the firm could not be reached for reaction.