How oil companies shortchanged host communities

…as Reps summon 14 MDs

By Gift Chapi Odekina

Host Communities to international oil companies on Tuesday decried marginalization of their people by oil companies operating in their various communities.

These communities specifically accused Shell BP, AGIP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, saying that even though the companies had operated several years in the communities, they have refused to fulfil their their agreements adding that there were no benefits to cushion the effects of the hazards caused by the oil explorations.

Representatives of the communities from Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo among other States in the Niger Delta made the revelations at a public hearing of the Committee on Treaties, Protocols Agreements and Petroleum Resources (Upstream) of the House of Representatives on “Holistic Review of All Agreements and Momoranda of Understanding Between Oil Companies in Nigeria and Host Communities”, yesterday in Abuja.

The hearing was essentially called to fashion out ways of fostering peace between the oil companies and their host communities.

The communities said that they were lacking drinking water, motorable roads and health centers.

They also denied benefitting from the employment and scholarship schemes of the oil companies.

For instance, Mr. Loveday Okere, Secretary of Omoba representing 12 communities that made up Etche 2 Clusters in Rivers State told the Committee that SPDC has been operating in the community since 1950s with no projects on the ground for the benefits of the people.

He said that the company imposed the Global Memorandum of Understanding, GMoU it signed with them, lamenting that they defaulted in many areas of its provisions.

“They prepared and lord it on the community. If you refuse, they rather shut down the clusters. We need to apply to get this document. For a cluster of 9 with 69 oil communities, N110million is shared amongst the communities, when you put all these, you know what is accruable is minimal”, he said.

Hon Isdor Nwabagbara who represented Ohaji Egbema and Uguta in Imo State said the company has refused to sign an MoU with them.

“I am shocked to hear that there is anything called MoU. Since shell came in 1973, no single project has done by shell in Ohaji”, he said.

The story is the same in oil producing communities in Ukwa West Local Government of Abia State as there was nothing to show for it.

The representative, Reverend Eleogu Lucky said the company was yet to inaugurate their clusters since 2017, adding that there were no employment to their people.

In his remarks, the chairman of the Committee, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai advised the company to engage the communities to engender peace in the area.

For AGIP and its host communities, the story is the same.

Pastor Igiri Samuel representing Okioma community from Southern Ijaw Local Government area said there were no projects in his area.

He said: “The last MoU was signed in 2009. No other projects. Only intervention projects, extension of light. In term of employment, it is zero. From 1989 till date, nobody has been employed.

Similarly, Chairman, Okpai Clan Development Community, OCDC in Ndokwa East, Delta State and National Deputy President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC said that AGIP has operated in his domain for 55 years with nothing to show for it.

“Effort to initiate a new MoU after the first one between 2003 to 2007 has suffered a dangerous neglect. No water, no clinics, abandoned drainages, no new MoU. There is a deliberate delay since 2003-2007”, he said.

Chief Isaiah Young Dede from Nembe Kingdom of Bayelsa State also decried the action of AGIP.

“There are 123 oil wells located in our area.
Agip only signed one document and has not been implemented it”, he said.

For Smart Okpara from Rumekpe community, Emehoha LGA of Rivers state, “There is nothing to show that AGIP exists in my community. We have never had a GMOU.”

On his part, Sir Musa Odili from Umuiwelia/Abuator in Ndokwa East, Delta State said “AGIP has refused to go into MoU with us. They have refused to recognise us. I don’t know what we have done to them. We have oil wells. They should recognize us as a host community. There is no scholarship, no employment, no meetings, since 1964”.

Earlier, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the company had said that the company enjoyed a cordial relationship with its host communities.

He said: “We have 300 host communities both transit and host. They have access to power: in Imo Bayelsa, Delta. We supply power from our flow stations free of charge to the communities. They have access to water. We ensure that we live together. Before now, we had no fence because we believe that communities cannot attack us. On the areas of employment and empowerment, most of our projects are done by the communities, most of our employees are from the Niger Delta.”

The same lamentation trailed the activities of Shevron oil company in their host communities.

While the company represented the General Manager, Policy, Government/Public Affairs, Mr. Esimaje Brikin stated that they involved the communities through the GMoU to determine their needs, the communities said there were issues of unemployment and funding.

They added that the oil company had opportunity for internship but did not extend it to host communities, adding that there were also denied supply even tissue papers.

ExxonMobil also faced similar accusation as Elder Jones Mkpa representing Okorutit village in Ibeno Local Government area of Akwa Ibom flayed its submission on cordial relationship with the people.

Mkpa said “youth will block the road and the organization will call in soldiers. There are no community project and there is agitation every time by the youth. No peace in the community”.

In the same vein, TOTAL Exploration oil represented by the Managing Director, Energia Leslie said they always carried their host communities along but he was countered by Eleogu who said that they have refused to implement the scholarship scheme agreement it had with them.

Meanwhile, the House Committee has summoned 14 other oil companies to appear before it next week Tuesday to give details of the agreement they have with their host communities.

The companies were Seplat oil, New Cross oil, Pillar Oil, Sterling Oil Global, Ran Ocean oil, Niger Delta Company, MD Western, Orion Oil, Eroton, Lee Engineering, Connoil, Aeto and NPDC.

“They have disrespected the House of Representatives not not appearing even last week and this week. And this committee will not fail to deal with the issue squarely”, the chairman, Ossai said.

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