By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Ijaw youths have threatened mass action against multinational and indigenous oil companies neglecting their host communities in the Niger Delta especially Ijaw oil-producing areas.
The youths under the auspices of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide noted with dismay the untold hardship and endemic poverty in such communities despite living amidst crude oil installations, oil wells and pipelines.
The IYC, in its new position paper entitled “Our rules of engagement with multinationals, indigenous oil companies,” said it had decided to beam its searchlight on oil companies refusing to sign agreements with its host communities and those flouting terms in Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they reached with their hosts.
The IYC, in the document dated September 24 and signed by its President, Timothy Igbifa, said it would go after oil and gas companies laying off their employees from Ijaw extraction despite the economic hardship occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IYC said it was disturbed by the relationship existing between the Ogulagha Community in Burutu Local Government Area Of Delta State and the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The youths said the company had resorted to using retrenchment and downsizing as a tool of oppression against their brothers and sisters without minding the economic effects of their action amidst the COVID – 19 pandemic.
The IYC in the document said it was worried that in Gbarain Kingdom in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area Bayelsa State, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) had refused to pay compensation for the devastating oil spillage that occurred in the areas as collectively agreed by all the parties.
It said in Peretorugbene Community of Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Excel Exploration and Production Company, operators of NNPC/ Shell Eremor field ( OML 46) refused to sign GMOU with its host community.
The document said: “In contravention of the Nigerian Content Act and other legislations governing the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry, the Amni International Petroleum Development Company Ltd. has continued to act against their host commuities in Andoni Local Government Area Of Rivers State and same apply to Conoil Production in in the Eastern Obolo.
“Exxon Mobil Unlimited and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd have also not lived up to the expectations of their host communities especially in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
“In fact, we are disturbed by the lack of basic amenities in Bukuma community in Degema Local Government Area. The communities play host to major oil and gas companies and facilities such as the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) whose trunkline traverses the community; the Eroton Exploration and Production that operates OML 18 Oil Field and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), which is a major player in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
“In spite of these major oil and gas explorative activities that go on in this community and other surrounding communities; there is no access road connecting other communities within the area. They don’t have portable water to drink, no electricity, no health facility and other life-supporting infrastructure”.
IYC added: “We are appalled at the double standard exhibited by these companies. While they treat people from their host communities abroad as kings and queens; obey all regulatory standards and international best practices overseas, they carry themselves as lords and masters in our region, treating us with disdain and behaving as if their operations supersede the laws of this country.
“We have also watched as all regulatory agencies established by the federal government compromise all standards of best practices and pamper the oil companies to continue their nefarious acts of under-developing and shortchanging the Niger Delta region especially the Ijaw communities. We want to say enough is enough.
“Henceforth, the IYC will no longer tolerate this absurdity and rascality. We have activated various departments including our legal team to point out these infractions and insist that the affected companies do the right things. We are going to roll out mass action against any oil firm that fails to obey the standards.
“Our principle of reciprocity will be geared towards ensuring that it is oil and gas companies operating in our region and the developmental and interventionist agencies that respect the rights of the people and factor in their developmental needs that will operate peacefully in the region. We will do this bearing in mind that the council is not subservient to any entity, power or principality. It is Ijaw nation first.
“In the meantime, we call on SPDC to immediately rescind their decision to disengage the services of the youths of Ogulagha community. We applaud them for not resorting to violence. These IOC’s are deliberately putting our comununities and people in arms way by their untoward activities. We also call on other multinationals such as NAOC, Eroton Excel Oil, Exxon Mobil and others to settle all their obligations with their host communities.
“The council will come knocking on their doors and if need be stop their operations until we are satisfied that the right things have been done. No amount of their chicanery and infamous strategy of divide and rule will rescue defaulting companies from our collective action”.