By Emma Arubi
WARRIâ€”PROTESTING women and elders of Ugborodo community who have been on Chevron premises in the last couple of days say they would vacate the place as a mark of respect to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Their resolve to end the protest followed peace talks initiated by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in Warri yesterday.
The women and elders have been occupying the premises since Saturday last week when they staged a peaceful rally to draw the attention of government to what they described as total neglect of the area.
The meeting which kicked off about 3.30pm at the Governorâ€™s office annex in Warri had in attendance members of the Ugborodo Trust, members of the Itsekiri Regional Council, officials of Chevron Nigeria Limited as well as security agencies such as the Joint Task Force, JTF, the police and the State Security Service, SSS.
Governor Uduaghan told the Ugborodo delegation to the meeting that by their resolve to end the protest and stop further occupation of Chevron facility, they have strengthened him to assist in fast-tracking the resolution of the issues raised.
His words: “I am happy that you agreed to call off the protest to enable Chevron continue with their job. I can assure you that henceforth I shall pursue this matter with greater vigor.
I have already secured assurance for a stakeholders’ meeting in the next 10 days with Federal authorities and we shall all be at that meeting to tackle the issues. As you know, it is a process.”
Governor Uduaghan used the opportunity to debunk claims that he instigated the protest explaining that he could not start such a fire and have peace. “One of the national dailies carried a story that I instigated the protest.
Certain people are saying all sorts of things, maybe because of where I come from, but the truth is that I never sat with anyone to plan a protest. So, if there are issues, please let us address them,” he told the delegation.
Mr. Thomas Eriyetomi who led the delegation said the Ugborodo people have been neglected for too long by authorities such as the Niger Delta Ministry, the NDDC and NNPC.
He drew attention to the sea encroachment of Ugborodo and Ogidigben as well as other Itsekiri communities in the axis explaining that except a foreshore wall is built the communities would be washed into the Atlantic Ocean.
His words, Your Excellency, we are not happy that the contract awarded by NDDC for a foreshore wall has since been abandoned by the contractor while our communities are being washed into the sea.â€™
Continuing Mr. Eriyetomi said, â€˜let us make it clear the Governor has no hand in any way whatsoever in this protest we are only carrying out a legitimate peaceful protest to register our anger against the neglect of the areaâ€™.
Mr. Mofe Pirah and Mr. Sandis Uvwoh absolved Governor Uduaghan of complicity in the protest, saying â€˜we are not children, it is the poverty and neglect of the area that is making us angry.
Let people from Abuja come and see for themselves what is happening to our homeland. At the rate that the sea is encroaching into our land by 2013 we would no longer have a home and this is enough cause for anxiety.
They also complained that a July 14 publication by the Niger Delta Ministry for jobs to be done in the Niger Delta region drew the anger of the people as it excluded Itsekiri communities.
They also complained that the way the Escravos River Crossing project was being carried out the communities will be denied electricity while gas from the area would be used to generate electricity supply to other parts of the country.
There are indications that a step down to provide electricity to the Itsekiri and Ijaw communities in the area would cost about four million dollars.
At the end of the meeting the community leaders gave an assurance that the women and elders occupying the Chevron facility would be asked to vacate the place immediately to pave way for talks with all stakeholders.