By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Egufe Yafugborhi
ASABA- DELTA State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has invited the people of Ugborodo, an Itsekiri community in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL and heads of security agencies in the state to a meeting at Asaba, the capital, on Monday, following the siege to the oil company, since Tuesday by irate villagers.
A source told Saturday Vanguard that Governor Okowa was disturbed that the villagers protesting alleged neglect, discrimination and non-recognition of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, formed by the company, have refused to lift their siege to the company for four days running.
Delta State Commissioner of Police, Director, Departm-ent of State Services, DSS, in the state, representatives of the Navy and Army Commanders in Warri visited the troubled community on Thursday to prevail on the protesters to vacate the company, but they politely declined.
We won’t vacate CNL until…
President of Ugborodo Youths, Mr. Ofem Nene, who confirmed that the community was aware of Monday’s invitation by the governor, said: “We will not vacate the company, our protest is peaceful and we are not going to blow up the company’s facility. In addition, we are not harassing any worker, but we will send delegation to Asaba to honour the governor, but our people will remain here until the delegation returns from Asaba to brief us.
“Otherwise, our stand before now was that we were not interested in any mediation by the state government, we want the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru ,” he added. A community leader told Vanguard that the community would meet today to examine the issues that led to the protest and take a common stand ahead their meeting with the governor on Monday.
They’re rebels- Eyengho
However, spokesperson of the Ogidigben EPZ Interface Committee, the peace-building group currently running the community’s affairs, Mr, Alex Eyengho, said: “What is happening there is being carried out by grossly misled few rebels in Ugborodo. They are rebelling against the decision of the Delta state government, the Olu of Warri, Pa JOS Ayomike and of course, they are rebels against law and order.
“The IMC, and the duo who fabricated it, Olajori (Spiritual Head) of Ugborodo, Benson Omadeli and his cousin, Sandys Uvwoh against the will of Ugborodo and the decision of a court of competent jurisdiction are behind this illegality and potentially dangerous protest.
“They are doing all these to arm-twist Chevron to recognize the IMC, led by Emma Meke. For the avoidance of doubt, the only management structure for the entire Ugborodo as of today is the expanded EPZ Interface Committee under the leadership of Austin Oborogbeyi. Security agencies should do the needful by treated the isolated characters as rebels”, Eyengho stated.
He urged security agents “to step in and do the needful by treating these isolated characters as rebels and dangerous trouble makers that they really are.”
CNL dealing with expired factional leaders – Omadeli
Responding to Eyengho’s diatribe, former chair, Ugborodo Community Trust, Mr. Sandys Omadeli insisted: “Any attempt to settle the lingering issue must be done in Ugborodo or inside Chevron yard. In addition, the Delta state government must only act as observers. The Ugborodo people no longer have faith in a subjective governm-ent. “The issue in dispute is that Chevron refused to recognize the IMC, the collective decision of the community put in place since March, this year, and they are dealing with the factional leaders whose tenure have elapsed.”
“This issue has been on for six months and nobody has showed concern on resolving it. The old leaders have the backing of the state government and Chevron is stressing that the IMC must have government backing before it can accord it recognition. I do not know where government has started appointing leaders for communities,” he added.
Omadeli asserted: “We are told that DSS officials trying to pacify the protesters said they are they are looking into the issue. That is empty talk. The DSS as we use to know them should have been able to advice government on how best to go since the past six months.”
We don’t meddle in communities’ internal affairs – CNL
Chevron, through its Upstream Media Relations Advisor, Isabel Ordonez, in a statement, said: “Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, operator of the Joint Venture between Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and Chevron Nigeria Limited (the NNPC/CNL JV) confirms that at about 13.00 pm on August 9, 2016, some members of Ugborodo community gathered at one of the gates of our Escravos facility.”
“They are asking for the recognition of the Ugborodo community Interim Mana-gement Committee, IMC, and also requesting CNL to recognize the Ugborodo Community Trust, among others. “CNL does not interfere in the internal affairs of communities in the areas of operations, including Ugborodo. We continue to engage the protesters and key community leaders and stakeholders including the state government and hope for peaceful resolution of the situation shortly.” it said.