Nigeria’s crude oil export may witness a shortfall following the stoppage of production at the Santa Barbara flow-station owned by Aiteo, a Nigerian energy conglomerate.
Aggrieved locals, mainly chiefs, elders, women, youths of the oil-producing community, Opu Nembe Kingdom of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, on Saturday protested against the oil major over what they described as “unfair treatment” of the community.
They issued a notice to quit to the oil company with effect from November 14, 2020, to abandon the oil mining licence (OML 29).
The head of chiefs in the area, Oriaingo Oruwari, said their actions were to register their frustration over economic sabotage, strangulation, ecological destruction, and contract racketeering by Aiteo.
He said for five years since Shell Petroleum Development Company sold OML 29 to Aiteo without any consideration of host communities’ pending legal and equitable rights, it had been anguish on all sides for the organisations.
He said, “The chiefs, elders, women, youths and all people of Opu Member are tired of the Aiteo punishment. Put, Aiteo, and whoever its officials and private collaborators may be, is practically killing its host communities, particularly Opu Nembe.
“It has become so unbearable through these years, and worse in recent months, that community women and youths were provoked to peacefully occupy the Santa Barbara flow station and the Oceans field flow station in protest from Wednesday, November 11.
“We are aware that kin and women from our sister host kingdom have also peacefully occupied Aiteo installations for some days now, in a similar protest.
“As community leaders, we applied civilized methods of seeking redress, including lawsuits, petitions to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, Nigerian Oil Spill Detection, and Response Agency and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and informal channels too.
“But most of the official and regulatory agencies for pursuing our grievances are so distant, so aloof, so unconcerned, so unresponsive, chasing shadows and at best excruciatingly slow. Impoverished as our communities are, we are often forced to beg and borrow, to follow up complaints with various official or legal channels involving repeated logistics, travels, and other challenges – to little or no avail.
“These frustrations have now pushed our youths and women to make their case through the peaceful occupation of Aiteo’s production locations.”
He said the communities, frustrated and exasperated, had in solidarity with the protesting people addressed a press conference to issue the notice to quit to Aiteo and their alleged fraudulent front contractors so that they would stop trespassing on their land.
“The oil company had been strangulating the communities’ already stretched subsistence economy by even owing the few sub-contracted community members for years and months, including surveillance contractors/workers protecting their pipelines and vendors supplying food to their workers in the process of rendering them so weak to justify replacing them with more proxies or middlemen,” Oruwari said.
They also accused the company of employing negligible numbers of the community members on casual employment, including deplorable working conditions.
Oruwari also accused the oil company of causing repeated, massive, and prolonged oil spillage in the area. He said Aiteo refused to negotiate with the kingdom since it took over oil production in the area.