Julius Berger: Group lament kidnap of youths during protest in Rivers

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition (RSEYLC) has lamented alleged kidnap of about eight youths during a protest against Julius Berger Nigeria Plc which was scheduled to hold on Tuesday, along Rumuola, Port Harcourt.

It would be recalled that the youth group had planned a joint protest with various youth groups, including student Unions among others against Julius Berger’s alleged non-compliance to Community Social Responsibility and Local Content Law in heir various projects in the state.

The youth group led by Legborsi Yamaabana, President, Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition, assembled at Rumuola junction for the peaceful protest when suspected security operatives in two cars arrived the venue and allegedly whisked the group secretary and some protesters away.

Following the propose protest, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, released a statement on Monday, cautioning that will not tolerate Amy form of distraction and would arrest and prosecute anyone or group of persons that will sabotage the completion of the ongoing projects by Julius Berger.
The commissioner stated that the group was sponsored by enemies of the state to disrupt the ongoing projects in the state.

Parts of the release stated: “Rivers State Government has received intelligence reports that two faceless groups, African Grassroots Empowerment Organisation and Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition purportedly led by Prince Gomene Namene and Legborsi Yamaabana respectively have been hired to cause breach of the peace in the State.

“The two groups have threatened to shut down the operations of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC with effect from March 30, 2021 in order to frustrate the ongoing construction of five Flyovers at Rumuola, GRA Junction, Orochiri-Worukwo, Oroabali and Nkpolu-Oroworukwo.

“These groups hiding under the guise of demanding for local content and corporate social responsibility from Julius Berger are clearly being sponsored by enemies of the State who are not happy with the infrastructural revolution going on in the State.

“Government hereby warns these groups that it will not condone their sinister ploy to disrupt the timeline set by government to complete these projects.

“Security Agencies have been placed on red alert to arrest and prosecute anyone or group of persons that will sabotage the completion of these projects”.

Meanwhile, Mr Yamaabana has accused the state government of allegedly masterminding the arrest of his members on peaceful protest.

Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt after the youth members were whisked away, Yamaabana said “Most importantly, for the records, a major reason why this protest is been rescheduled is to honour those who were kidnapped by suspected state sponsored thugs. We hereby demand for their immediate release.

“The aim of the protest remains on four fronts among which are demands that Julius Berger should comply with Local Content laws and Corporate Social Responsibilty etc.For the records, Julius Berger has completed 3 flyovers and currently constructing 5 additional flyovers with several kilometers of roads, together with the Bodo-Bonny road with several bridges which cumulatively run into  several hundred of billions of naira. 

“Despite the aforesaid, the company has audaciously jettisoned Corporate Social Responsibilty and Local Content Laws thus far, as practiced globally.

“The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Friday Eboka invited us (RSEYLC) to meeting yesterday, upon our arrival at the Police Headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, the commissioner informed us that the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike want to be part of the meeting, we obliged and thereafter proceeded to Government House where we met with the Governor.

“At the said meeting, the Governor threatened to kill us if we dare to carry-out any protest against Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. He said, “he will defend julius berger to the last drop of his blood and nobody or group can ask the company of Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) or local content empowerment. 

“When we insisted to go on with the protest if Julius Berger fail to comply with our lawful demands, the Governor directed his commissioner for information, Paulinus Nsirim to issue a statement, threatening to deal with any member RSEYLC that comes out for the protest.

“Still determined to defend the interest of Rivers State Youths, we stepped out for the protest and before we could arrive the venue, gun men suspected to be from the Governor invaded us and whisked away the Secretary of Rivers State Ethnic Youth Leaders Coalition and about six other youth leaders who were out for the protest”.

Yamaabana expressed surprise “why the governor and government of Rivers State has decided to defend Julius Berger against Rivers State Youth Leaders at all cos”t. 

He accused that “Although there were reports not withstanding from our intelligence unit of plots to infiltrate the protesters with armed miscreants so as to criminalize the protesters and occasion a stage-managed  gun battle with deployed troops leading to the killing of protesters, our resolve remains unchanging as we explore other channels of this same advocacy”.

He therefore reiterate their demand that the secretary of RSEYLC and all those allegedly kidnapped be set free immediately. 

the group further called on  the international community, especially the German Embassy and the European Union, Amnesty International and all men of goodwill and lovers of justice to stand with Rivers State Youth Leaders on their demands.

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