Itsekiri youths under the aegis of Itsekiri National Youths Council have issued a 21-day ultimatum to multinational oil companies to vacate their land over what they described as undue marginalisation by the Federal Government and oil firms.
In a statement signed by Comrade Agbateyinniro Weyinmi, President, and Comrade Appearance Afejuku, Secretary of the group, the youths alleged that despite making significant contribution to the economy of the country, they have been denied their due in the social contract of care and government commitment to the welfare of Itsekiri people.
The statement argued that whereas other areas that contribute little or nothing to the national treasury have experienced visible developmental strides, Itsekiri people have suffered unjustifiable degree of marginalisation with abandonment of sea port facilities especially those in Koko and Warri, “thereby robbing our people unfairly of the huge industrial and employment opportunities without minding its attendant security implications in an attempt to politically keep us underdeveloped”.
“Our people have continued to suffer under excruciating humanitarian crises for a period spanning several years even in a recurring cycle arising from the failure of the government to live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property especially during and after the ill-fated Warri crisis”, Itsekiri youths said.
“Arising from the above, we are constrained to hereby issue this 21-day notice effective from today that should the Itsekiri people not experience changes in these situations, we will be left with no choice than make public the Deghele declaration tagged ‘Operation Jigini’ and immediately emplace machineries to accomplish every component of this declaration in a manner that no one will ever envisage.
“As for the oil companies and other multinationals doing business on every part of Itsekiri land, we are fed up with all your deceits, divide and rule tactics and your orchestrated agenda to continue to partner the power that be in order to continuously milk us dry while others smile home on top of our God given wealth. “The earlier you began to move all your personnel, equipment, facilities, fields, flow stations etc from our land before the expiration of these ultimatum, the better for us all”, the youths said.
“Accordingly, all critical organs/leaders of this council are directed to be on high alert as further details on the council resolutions and how to emancipate our people from these oppressions/suffocations/deprivation shall be communicated through our usual channels”, the statement added.
Edo Community Threatens NPDC
In a similar development, community leaders from Ikara in Edo State have threatened to unleash angry youths on the operations of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC) over its alleged deliberate refusal to address cases arising from series of oil spillage that occurred in 2014.
The leader of the team from the community, Chief Williams Lambert, while speaking at an investigative hearing on the matter by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, said the community is now confused and in need of guidance as to what action it should take.
“I’ve acted like a responsible citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Am I to unleash my youths on NPDC? Because I can do that next week and shut down their entire operations in the area.
“I’m confused here sir. Am I supposed to organise our youths to shut down their operations, because I can do that next week. Yes! I can do that next week, because as we speak, my people cannot drink water because they don’t have access to pipe borne water and the God given sources of water have been polluted by chemicals. Our people are dying from unknown diseases. I need the committee’s guidance sir.”
The committee chairman, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP, Abia), had earlier ordered his committee clerk to issue a warrant of arrest on the Director General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Peter Irabor, for his refusal to appear at the investigative hearing.
However, the chairman and other members appealed to Lambert that since the matter was before the House, it will be properly handled and resolved, hence there was no need for violence.
On the absentee DG, the chairman stood down the decision to arrest him as an acting director, Impact Assessment Department of NOSDRA, Oluwole Adeleke, was sent to represent him.
Pollution And Environmental Degradation
It would be recalled that this case was first heard with leaders of the community appearing before the panel on April 19 where they stated in a petition signed by their consultant, Eyitemi Brown-Dibofun, the destructive effects of crude oil pollution and environmental degradation and its attendant health hazards on the their community.
The community also at the hearing appealed to the House to compel the NPDC to replace its old and corroded network of crude oil bearing pipelines which are prone to leakages in the locality with new pipelines.
The petition reads in parts, “We act for Ikara community in Ikpoba-Okha L.G.A. of Edo State and their group of fishermen/women, farmers and individuals impacted by the crude oil spills from the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Limited failed pipeline in their locality on November 15, 2013; January 5, February 18, 2014.
“The fire outbreak of March 27, 2014 and another crude oil spill of 23rd April 2014”, it said.
The community also prayed the committee to compel NPDC to prepare a comprehensive scope of work which should include all crude oil polluted and degraded sites in Ikara community and thereafter mobilise a competent contractor to commence a thorough cleanup, remediation and restoration work of the oil impacted and degraded sites in the community.