Youths and women from 19 oil bearing communities of Ohaji district in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State yesterday shut down the activities of the oil companies operating in the area over what they described as alleged neglect.
The protesters numbering thousands demanded compensation from oil exploration companies domiciled in the communities.
The protesting youths and women, under the aegis of Concerned Youths of Ohaji People’s Forum and Concerned Women of Ohaji People’s Forum who matched around the areas blocked the major roads in the area especially those leading to the entrance of the oil companies.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as: ‘Oil Companies treat us like your landlords or get a quit notice’; ‘enough of oil company injustice’ and ‘develop our communities or leave our land’.
Addressing journalists during the protest, the President of the Youth group, Mr Victor Amadi, said that the communities had suffered underdevelopment since oil exploration activities began in the area in 1958.
He also said that efforts made by the people to seek compensation from the oil companies had yielded no positive results.
He said,: “The entire state and Nigeria at large, are beneficiaries of the large deposits of oil and gas in our land, yet we have no electricity, good roads, health facilities, skill acquisition centres nor employment opportunities for our teeming university graduates”.
He insisted that they are tired of empty promises while calling on the oil companies to match their promises with actions.
Adding her voice, the Women Leader, Mrs Scholarstica Opara, said that the lack of good roads had resulted in loss of farm produce which were being transported to markets in Owerri, the state capital, leading to huge financial losses.
She added that some of the women had died during childbirth due to lack of health facilities, with the people exposed to water and environmental pollution from the exploration activities of the companies.
Also, Mr Daniel Okonji, a patron of the youth group, said that efforts had been by the communities to seek government’s intervention but without any results.
He however called on the state government to assist the communities in attracting compensation from the companies.
On his part, Vice President of the youth group, Mr Jephthah Okwudili, who advised the youths not to allow themselves to be used against one another, said that the communities would continue to dwell peacefully with the companies if their demands were met.
Reacting, Special Adviser to the MD/CEO of Imo State Oil Producing Development Areas Commission (ISOPADEC), Mr Darmian Opara, said that according to the Federal Government’s exclusive list, payment of royalties to host communities was a duty of oil companies.
He however said that the Commission had built primary schools and health facilities in some of the communities including Asaa, Obile, Awara and Ikwerede communities respectfully, with ongoing construction of schools in the area.
The picture showing protesting women from the oil bearing communities of Ohaji in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of Imo State.
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