(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-
These are not the best of times for the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Nigeria Limited, as youths from host communities are becoming restive and protesting years of neglect by the company known to be a key player in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
First to take to the streets on the early morning of Wednesday, May 2, 2018 were the youths of Rumueme in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. The youths, who were on a peaceful protest blocked access into and out of the company as well as the road leading to Eagle Island.
The protesting youths told newsmen that the company do not share in the feelings and aspirations of the host communities, especially in the area of employment even when they have qualified graduates in relevant fields of study and provide a conducive environment for their business.
While the Nigerian Agip Oil Company was trying to recover from the Rumueme challenge, youths of Ekpeye in Ahoada – East and Ahoada- West Local Government Areas of Rivers State on Thursday issued the company four days ultimatum to consider their people for employment or leave their land.
In a statement, Ogbeka Omeda, the leader of youths in Ekpeye, said the company is yet to employ an Ekpeye indigene in all its years of operation in the area and demanded that the company do the needful irrespective of the level, in order to give them a sense of belonging.
While it is a well known fact that Rivers people are peaceful, it has been observed that some of the companies doing business in the state have not been reciprocating the kind gestures from their host communities.
In the interest of peace, we urge multinational companies doing business in Rivers State to factor the interest of host communities at all times including employment. If that has been the case, the youths would not be lamenting. Decades of neglect is the reason for most of the restiveness in the Niger Delta but it is so disheartening that some of the companies concerned appear to remain insensitive to the feelings and aspirations of host communities. This should change.
While we plead with the companies to reciprocate the kindness of host communities, it is also important that community representatives allow provisions from the companies to get to their people. Wherever the interest of host communities are traded for personal gains by those who should protect it, then there is little that the companies can do.
In our opinion, communities who feel shortchanged need to find out whether they are being denied by the companies or by one of their own. This line of thinking will enable host communities to identify the source of their problems and accordingly determine how to deal with the situation.
(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-