BY GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
BENIN—IKARA, an Itsekiri oil producing community in Ikpoba/Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, weekend, took to the creeks to protest fraudulent award of pipeline security/surveillance contract by Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, to a security company owned by a Koko-based contractor.
The community claimed that the company which won the contract had no knowledge of its environment and topography and was not in a position to check the activities of oil pipeline vandals.
The protesters, who wielded placards with such inscriptions as: “Ikara is in pains of frequent oil spills”; “NPDC save our lives”; “No more aquatic lives in Ogba river”; “Our river, farmland polluted and our means of livelihood seriously threatened.”
Singing solidarity songs and dancing in canoes, the protesters took this correspondent to scenes of oil spills along the river and their farmlands, which had been laid waste by spills from pipelines constructed by NPDC, to convey crude oil from its Oredo Flow Station to Ajoki.
The community’s leader, Chief Philip Esiedao, who spoke with Vanguard shortly after the protest, lamented that their only source of livelihood and drinking water had been polluted by the spill allegedly perpetrated by vandals, oil thieves and illegal operators of artisanal refineries in the area.
He demanded that the security/surveillance of the crude oil export pipelines which criss-cross their community be handed over to them for effective monitoring and control.
He expressed dissatisfaction with officials of NPDC over the shoddy contract and the company’s marginalisation of Ikara, especially in the area of social amenities and employment for its graduates.
Esiedao lamented that the award of the security/surveillance contract to a non-indigene had become a conduit pipe for siphoning of crude oil and millions of Naira lost in the illegal act, alleging connivance between the security company and oil thieves.
“We want to take over the security and surveillance of the pipelines in our domain to avert frequent oil spills because we are the ones directly affected by the effect of the spills. Our farmlands and rivers which are our only sources of livelihood have been destroyed by the spills,” he said.