The people of Egebekiri community in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State on Thursday protested Nigerian Agip Oil Company’s (NAOC) neglect of the community.
The residents took their protest to the Obama flow station operated by the company, disrupting production in oil wells 5, 7, 9 and 12.
Chief Karibi MacDonald, a community leader in Egebekiri, explained that the company has not paid residents of the community any form of royalties or related fees since beginning oil exploration there over 40 years ago.
Mr. MacDonald said they were tired of writing letters to NAOC officials seeking intervention only to be ignored.
The community leader maintained that a Supreme Court judgment of July 13, 2007 had confirmed community residents as the legal owners of the land area hosting the oil fields.
He added that NAOC has paid royalties and other fees to neighboring communities while ignoring Egebekiri.
“It has been ten years now since that Supreme Court ruling, but NAOC is yet to show that they honor the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Mr. MacDonald said. “They have yet to recognize and deal with us as landlord of the environment where the company has continued to extract crude oil from four oil wells in their Obama oilfield.”
Chief Egbe John, one of the protesters, said, “And today, we are saying we are tired after writing over 30 letters to various departments including the Bayelsa State governor [Henry Dickson) and his special advisers on oil and gas and security.
“We have also written to headquarters and sector commands of the Joint Task Force Commander of the Central Naval Command. Where have we not written to? Even up to Milan, the head office of Eni,” he said.
Ofabara Egebe, a daughter of the founder of the community, lamented that Egebekiri could no longer endure NAOC’s neglect while being exploited for oil.
“The only little compensation made by Agip was for the destruction of economic trees by Agip of which we still have receipt of that payment. Nothing more has been given to our community by way of contracts or royalties as landlord hosting four oil wells operated by Agip.
“We are tired of the suffering and injustices meted against us by Agip, that is why we decided to protest against the injustice today,” Mrs. Egebe said.
When contacted for a reaction on the disruption of oil production at the oil field, Major Abubakar Abdullahi, spokesman for the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, said the military has since restored normalcy to the area.
“Our mandate is clear and that is to protect oil and gas infrastructure,” he said. “If any community has issues against any company, let them resolve it legally. JTF will not take any threats to its mandate. We handle it professionally within our rules of engagement.”
Fillippo Cotalini, the media relations manager at Eni, the parent company of NAOC, declined to comment on the development.