Isoko community vows to sustain protest against Agip’s neglect
By Kelvin Ohoror
Idheze Community in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State has vowed to continue with their peaceful protest against gross neglect by Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC).
The community women had started the protest on Tuesday, July 6, 2022 by barricading the road leading to the oil wells being operated by NAOC, saying until their demands are met, they would not allow the company to have access. After 19 days of being in the bush under the rain and without any meaningful response from NAOC, the people have vowed to continue with the protest and blockage of the company’s access to the oil wells in Idheze Community.
Giving update on the protest, the Public Relation Officer (PRO) of Idheze Community, Mr. Power Okpure, said the attitude of NAOC has vindicated the community which has insisted that the Italian firm is only interested in getting oil and gas without thinking about the development and welfare of the community.
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“It is very unfortunate that after 19 days of protest, NAOC has refused to accede to our demands and we are prepared to sustain the agitation which is our right and legal obligation of NAOC. Before we embarked on the protest, we wrote several letters to the company, which they ignored.
He said that “The Delta State Government invited them twice to discuss our complaints, they failed to honour the invitations. And when we began the protest on July 6, the Delta State Commissioner for Oil and Gas invited us to a meeting with NAOC officials on July 11.
He added that, “At that meeting, the oil company attested to the fact Idheze Community has been a very peaceful host without any history of vandalism or oil theft. But is this how to repay a peaceful community?”
The PRO explained that the community sees the action of NAOC as an oppression and injustice, saying that, “for over 10 years, no infrastructural development in our community, no employment for our people and we have been neglected in the area of local content.”
According to him, instead of putting pressure on NAOC to do the needful, the government is asking us to lift the blockage.
“We consider this as abnormal and oppressive. This is a company that has failed to develop our land and refused to employ our people for over 10 years. Instead of asking the company to listen to us, we are being asked to suspend our protest. This is unfair and we will not lift the blockage until our demands are met,” Okpure declared.
The PRO had explained that the operations of NAOC is guided by the provision that every four years, there ought to be a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with their community.
“The MoU that we signed in 2008 expired in 2011. NAOC refused to sign a new MoU since then. By our calculation, there ought to have been two separate MoUs between when that of 2008 expired and last year when the government introduced the Petroleum Industrial Act(PIA).
We have appealed to NAOC through the Delta State Ministry of Oil and Gas and other agencies but the company has refused to listen to us. Hence, we have decided to carry out the protest and we are saying until they compensate us for the years they did not sign MoU, we will not allow them to operate,” he said.