There is rising tension among indigenes of the Agrisaba community in Nembe Local Government Area (LGA) of Bayelsa State over the arrest and detention of the traditional ruler, Obenema of Agrisaba, King Walter Agri, by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) for his alleged involvement in a protest against the oil multinational, Agip Nigeria Oil Company (NOAC).
It was that gathered the angry youths and elders of the community had on Friday staged a protest march against the management of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NOAC) over its alleged non-payment of compensation over the oil spill, non-payment of contracts done for remediation of creeks and canals for three years, its refusal to clear pipe line routes, and its refusal to award the surveillance contract to indigenes, instead giving the contract to a non-indigene.
NOAC was also accused of polluting drinking water, failing to honor the memorandum of understanding between the company and the community, refusing to build a police post as agreed upon five years ago, refusing to pay compensation for land acquisition, and refusing to demarcate the land to avoid disputes with their neighbors.
The elders of the community, in a statement issued yesterday in Yenagoa and signed by Chief Tobin Esau, alleged that the arrest of their traditional ruler was preceded by an armed invasion of the community by youths and attacks on over ten locals with various degrees of injury.
“The community is a symbol of peace and tranquility based on the ancient and historic antecedent of our progenitor. The serene nature of the community was distorted after a peaceful protest by the community over the nefarious activities of the NAOC and the total neglect of the community in its developmental agenda on the 6th of August 2016,” the statement reads in part.
Read excerpts from their statement below:
“The community has not benefited anything substantial from the said company to justify its enormous contribution in terms of crude oil and gas supply production. The community was invaded by armed youths with dangerous weapons and unleashed violence on the entire community on the same day the protest was embarked upon. The armed miscreants that invaded the community were engaged by a contractor working for Agip to provide security in the power park in the community.
“Our properties were destroyed and some of our youths were severely injured as a result of gunshots and axe and machete wounds. The community was still nursing the pain of the said invasion when the next bombshell fell on the community. The king of the community, His Highness Walter Agri, was arrested by men of the Department of State Security Services on the 7th of August 2016 in the night at around 10pm at Omoku Agip quarter in a commando-like manner.
“We wish to condemn the barbaric manner and treatment that was visited on our king. It is a fact that the Mammam Lawal Daura-led DSS has no regard and respect for traditional institution in Ijaw land. Has the DSS arrested any village head, district head or an emir in a North State like Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Kaduna, or Adamawa as result of the activities of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen? Why did they arrest the king over a peaceful protest by the people to express their displeasure over the total neglect?
“Are we back to the days of military dictatorship when the dreaded Decree 4 was used to silence critics? Are we back to the days when companies provided arms to groups to unleash terror on perceived critics of the company activities? We wish to state that we cannot be intimidated by arrest and detention by the now dreaded disease called the DSS led by Mamman Daura. It is our constitutional right to embark on peaceful protests in our community to express our displeasure on the activities of the company that are detrimental to our collective existence as a people.
“We urge the DSS to concentrate on their traditional role and not to engage in acts that will portray the institution as another Gestapo police set up to harass innocent people. We call on the DSS to arrest those bandits that use dangerous weapons to unleash violence on the community. We condemn the continuous detention of our King Walter Agri and call for his immediate and unconditional release from the DSS.”