By Kelvin Ohoror, Asaba
The people of Idheze in Isoko South local government area of Delta State, has staged a peaceful protest over Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli company’s neglect, marginalization and 9 years of oil drilling operation without signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the community.
The community men, women and youths in their numbers matched through the road to the company’s location of operation at Idheze, chanting songs of deprivation and abandonment with placards having inscriptions as “Agip you are drilling oil without compensation”, “Agip where is your corporate social responsibility in Idheze”, Agip No salary No road in Idheze”, “Compensate us for the 9 years without MOU”, and “Agip provide employment and empowerment”, among others.
Speaking to newsmen at the company’s premises just as the Nigeria Army resisted entrance of the protesters, Mr. Goddy Egene, president general of Idheze community expressed displeasure at the neglect, hardship, inhuman treatment and suffering that Agip has caused the people while drilling oil from the area.
Egene stated that the community has written several letters to Nigeria Agip oil Company and also met with the company’s representatives with notifications several time, but did not respond to their demand, stressing that Agip only responds when there is violence and crisis which is why the community staged the protest to register their demand.
He further stated that “Agip oil firm had work over operation since November 2019 to April 2020, and claimed to have stopped operation in the community. But traces of their presence continued till now”. Egene maintained that the company paid up to May 2020 but refused to pay for the month June and July 2020 in spite of the fact the rig is still there. He lamented that for the past nine years, no MOU with the community but Agip continued with oil drilling operation in the area.
Egene said, “I was with the company management staff members at Port-harcourt March 2019, where communities where also invited to discuss the GMOU, but till now nothing tangible has come out. That is clearly one year and four months after the meeting. We have come to conclude that Agip has been deceiving us for the past nine years”.
He noted that there is no Agip project in the community, no employment even as no Idheze indigene is employed as a staff of Agip oil firm in the area. “They acquire land from us many years ago but refused to pay, no skill acquisition and employment just as they constantly ignore us after several letters sent to them”, he said.
He further stated that the community is aware of the 60% remittance to the federal government by the company, noting that “We are asking for what belongs to the community as our right and if not ready to comply, they should leave our land. Agip is here for business and it feels it is profitable, it go instead cuasing crisis for us in our peaceful comnunity”.
Egene maintained that Idheze has been a peaceful community without protest for many years but Agip oil firm has impoverished the people through marginalization, destruction of their fertile lands.
Earlier, the protesters blocked the road leading to the company as security men and others were deprived from gaining access to the operation base of the company. The Nigeria Army while appealing to the protesters to free the road for dialogue called on Mr. Egene to prevail and clear the blocked portion of the road.
The youth leader of Idheze community, Mr. Agoma Emmanuel corroborated the president general, reiterating that no indigene of the community is a staff of the company, which according to him will be resisted henceforth. However, the road was cleared for the army but the company representatives were not available for dialogue.
The call put across to two management staff of Nigeria Agip oil firm Mr. Dennis Masi, manager public affairs division and Mr. Attah Julius , assistant manager public affairs of the company was not successful just as they failed to respond to the protesters at the time of filing the report.