CONTROVERSY has broken out at Oviri-Olomu community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, over the compensation by Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, for a fresh oil discovery.
Five families, including Edariese Efedjamah, Irevwiruemu, George Akanuota, Onakota and Ashe, claiming ownership of Evue/Igbighogho bushes in the community where oil was discovered, alleged that faceless persons, who claim to be leaders of the community, connived with the company to shortchange them.
At a press conference in Udu, they stated that only the five families should be paid compensation and allowed to enjoy the benefits accruable from the land.
A member of the Edariese Family, Elder A.P. Edariese said: “The five families have been grossly denied their rights to fair compensation for their properties destroyed on the land and denied all payments for loss of use of the land as well as their rights to be paid anything under the freedom to operate, both at the time of preparation for drilling and now that the company has moved into the land for drilling purposes.
“We are equally denied of our rights to job slots.
“The land is not owned by the Oviri-Olomu Community, Individuals and families own the lands. NPDC should respect the five families for decency, reasonable fairness and justice, and allow peace to reign supreme if they want to do business in the land.
“They imported strange names who have no mandate to lead or represent the community for negotiations against the cries of the five families. They refused to hearken to these long calls and cries.
“NPDC is hereby placed on caution, solemnly advised and warned never to do anything with impostors who do not have the mandate of the community to represent the five families in the acquisition of their land by NPDC for the new oil location that’s being developed.”
Edariese noted he and three others were allegedly held hostage at Wellington Hotel in Effurun, Uvwie local government area by a consultant and forced to collect N1,500,000 on behalf of his family
He said: “He threatened that if I love myself, I should collect the money. That if the lords in Oviri-Olomu community know he is dealing with me, he will be in trouble. I should accept the money.
“I accepted the money under duress. I had to sign the cheque. He said my family was fortunate because we got the larger sum and others got peanuts.”
Representative of George Akanuota family, Mr. Shedrack Akanuota, who corroborated the claims of Edariese, said: “Only five families own the land wherein NPDC is currently carrying out drilling works at the moment and not nine as it was mentioned and forwarded to them by some faceless persons.”
“They have sidelined us, yet operation is going on in this land. I do not know on whose permission NPDC has gone to carry out their operation.
“So, if they have negotiated with any group of persons before, they should know that they have negotiated with the wrong persons. NPDC need to correct it now.
“NPDC should be cautious of themselves if they are going into communities for transactions to avoid any loss of lives and properties.
“I want NPDC to take note that they have transacted wrong businesses with wrong persons. They need to correct it.”
A representative of the Irhoremu family, Mr. David Irhoremu, who insisted that only five families owned the land wherein NPDC operates, said: “They are dealing with masquerades, who parade themselves to be representative of the community.
“NPDC is working contrary to the constitution of Oviri-Olomu community. They are operating outside the constitution.
“We want to advise NPDC to retrace their steps so that there will be no bloodshed and there will be no court matters.
“We are not against NPDC operating in our land. It is a welcome development that oil is being discovered in our land. But they should follow due process.
“They should come back to the landlords, there should be an MoU so that there will be peace in the land in the community.”