The people of Opu Nembe, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State at the weekend protested against an oil major, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited, over its alleged economic rape and environmental degradation.
They, therefore, gave a quit notice to the oil company with effect from November 14, 2020, to leave the Oil Mining Licence (OML 29), saying that Aiteo was no longer welcome in their communities afterwards.
During the peaceful protest, which took place on Saturday, the chiefs of the kingdom were all dressed in black attires, a development that indicated that they were mourning the “death” of the oil major in the kingdom.
Addressing journalists at Opu Nembe comprising Nembe-Bassambiri Kingdom, the Chairman, Council of Chiefs, Chief Oriaingo Oruwari, said they were protesting against national economic sabotage, strangulation of host communities, ecological destruction, contract racketeering and corporate wickedness.
Oruwari expressed the kingdom’s resolute rejection the oil firm imposed upon them as the joint venture operator of Nigeria’s most historic and highest onshore producing OML 29 despite their strong objection from the start.
He said since five years since Shell Petroleum Development Company allegedly surreptitiously 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 communities.
Oruwari stated: “The chiefs, elders, women, youths and all people of Opu Member are tired ofnghe Aiteo punishment. Simply 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 worst 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 kinsmen and women from our sister host kingdom have also peacefully occupied Aiteo installations for some days now, in similar protest.
“As community leaders, we applied civilised methods of seeking redress, including lawsuits, petitions to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, 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, put our sweat, toilsnc tears together just 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 peaceful occupation of Aiteo’s production locations.”