By EGUFE YAFUGBORHI & Emma Arubi
… as Ijaw community denies plan to shut down Agip operations …
PORT HARCOURT—Landowners and farmers in Akala-Olu community, Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State, have accused Nigerian Agip Oil Company of maliciously burning their farmlands to destroy evidence of its oil spillage on their land.
The angry villagers, who last week disrupted traffic in protest at the Ahoada axis of the East West Road over the incident, claimed that the action of Agip had aggravated the impact of the oil spill on the affected lands.
Nathan Alaga, an elder in the mainly affected Umu-Isogba extended of family of Akala-Olu told Vanguard that a joint inspection of the spill facilitated by the Rivers State Ministry of Environment in March, had established that it was a repeat of 2002 overflow of Waste Pit and Hot Water seepage from nearby Ochie Flow Station operated by Agip.
He said the intervening ministry recommended negotiations between the company and the affected landowners to determine compensation for the damaged farmlands, fish ponds and ancestral shrines in the affected area before cleanup and remediation were carried out.
“Without meeting with us, Agip came March 13, and said they want to clean up the spill and the family opposed the action. There and then, Agip officials set the spill site on fire and burnt the entire area.”
Calls to Agip Community Liaison Officer and contacts in the Public Affairs and HSE units of the company were not answered.
Counsel to the protesting family, Mr. Higher King, hinted of court action against Agip for alleged concealing of Umu-Isogba family land lease title on the Ochie Flow Station and denying them benefits while also “underpaying the family in the N5,000 offered yearly on the lease agreement for Agip well head sited in the family land covering 150/150 acres.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of Letugbene community has denied claims by some indigenes of the community that they intend to shut down the operations of Nigerian Agip Oil Company, following alleged death of three children, who drank polluted water from the firms’ operations.
Chief Gewade Preye and elder Geghapan Jonathan on behalf of the community, also described the alleged deaths of Osiumayin Eniye, 7; Kpegbolo Oyadonbebefa 5; and Boroyegha, 10, as untrue, saying that the community never intended to shut down Agip operations.
They denied that any person died from drinking polluted water from Agip’s operation in the community, adding that the claims, as published in some national dailies, were false.
“We condemn the totality, the publication as both Agip and the leadership of Letugbene community have settled agreement before the commencement of the Agip project.”
They advised indigenes with unsettled issues with Agip to approach the community leadership to seek ways of addressing them, instead of raising false alarm, saying that they were satisfied with the agreement reached with Agip in the drilling operations.