The people of Nembe Bassambiri, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, and host communities of Oil Mining Lease, OML, 29, operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, have asked the company to quit their domain.
This is just as the host communities have also appealed to the Federal Government not to renew the operational licence of Aiteo which they said expired on June 30, 2020, but should rather take over the operatorship of the OML 29, pending when a “new competent and community-friendly operator takes over.”
Youths besiege facilities
Though peaceful in their conduct, hundreds of angry youths from the host communities armed with placards of various inscriptions had last Wednesday laid siege to the company facilities in protest over the alleged neglect of their communities.
The Chairman of Nembe Bassambiri Chiefs Council, Chief Oriaingo Oruwari, flanked by other chiefs and community leaders’ weekend at a news conference, accused the company of “circumventing the Local Content Act,” and “denying host communities over 90 per cent of community contracts statutorily reserved for them.”
Strangely, all the chiefs and elders of the community were clad in black traditional attire, which according to their custom, symbolises “death and mourning” in the oil-rich enclave.
According to Chief Oriaingo, other grievances of the community against the company include employment of negligible numbers of community people on casual employment, massive prolonged oil spillages, and refusing to clean up and pay compensation, and refusing to negotiate a fair MOU with the community over five years ago.
He said: “The chiefs, elders, women, youths and all the people of Opu Nembe are tired. It has become so unbearable through these years and worst in recent months that community women and youths were provoked to peacefully occupied the Santa Barbara Flow Station and the Odeama Field-Flow Station in protest from Wednesday 11 November.
We are aware that kinsmen and women from our sister host kingdom have also peacefully occupied Aiteo installations in their domain for some days now, in a similar protest.
“As community leaders, we applied civilized methods of seeking redress, including lawsuits, petitions to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Office of Attorney General of the Federation, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS, NNPC, and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, and informal channels too.
“Frustrated and exasperated, we the community leadership in solidarity with our protesting people have to address this press conference, to issue this quit notice to Aiteo and their contractors, so they can stop trespassing on our territory and leave promptly.
“Consequently, we declare as follows: That the Federal Government-owned Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited, NPDC, should take over operatorship of OML 29, pending when a new, competent and community-friendly operator takes over.
Chiefs in black
Also speaking, Chief Amakiri Boumonye said: “today is a very big day for the people of Opu Nembe, as you can see all of us wearing black which depicts that something serious has happened, and what has happened is to announce to you the death and burial of Aiteo in Opu Nembe land.
Anytime you see the Nembe people wear black don, we have lost somebody. We are tired and we are no longer in this marriage,” However, Aiteo through one of its Spokesman who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company said the firm is working on a response to issues raised by the community.