*’We can’t continue to be in the river with soap in our eyes’- Botasan, Ugborodo leader
*CNL not undermining Ugborodo- Brikinn, GM, Policy, Govt and Public Affairs
By EMMA AMAIZE
UGBORODO- ‘WE are in the River, soap entered our eyes, but we have no water to clean the soap from our eyes.’
That is the heartbreaking manner a prominent leader of Ugborodo, Mr. Isaac Botosan a major Itsekiri ethnic oil producing community at Escravos, Warri South-West Local Government Area , Delta State, described the plight of his people, who have accused Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, a multinational oil company operating in the area of under-developing them.
Though Chevron’s General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Esimaje Brikinn, rebutted the charge, the youths and women of the community, who laid siege to the company, lately, said they would cripple the company’s operations in the area next time they storm the streets except they addressed their demands.
Botosan, who is a member of the Ugborodo Community Management Committee, said the people who are treated as second-class citizens by Chevron in the own land were also facing the verge of extinction by ocean surge, which is eating up their environment.
‘The problem is about community relations and empowerment. After the last Operations Manager of the company, everything about community relations has died in the company. There is electricity, but instead of powering us, their host community from the turbine that serves them in our soil, they gave us generator and you know what happens to generator in this country.
‘They will tell you that they provided water for us, but there is no supply of water, people in a riverine community have no water to bath. Chevron workers have water to use 24 hours in a separate community, Tank Farm, that they built for themselves, but the community are given water for just two hours a day, that is if they are lucky.
‘Hundreds of our youths, both graduates and the skilled ones roam the streets without jobs, they said there is no job, but everything is done from Lekki, Lagos. They do not employ our youths. The few they engaged were employed as casuals, they work for only three months, and are off for one month because they do not really want them to become staff or lay claim to any benefit as workers,’ he asserted.
Botosan said: ‘We have three big oil facilities, including the Escravos Gas to Liquid and Tank Farm, yet they cannot engage our youths, if they have jobs, will they be forced to do what is illegal.’
‘Even little jobs that local contractors can do, they prefer to give it to outsiders,’ he added, pointing out : they do not even recognize us as their host community, they only discuss with us conquered people.’
He admitted that CNL tried to engage the people in the last dispute that rocked the area, but they would deliberately send the officials that lack the authority to take binding decisions to make the discussions inconclusive at any point in time.
‘There is no headway yet in discussions with them over the last protest. What happened in that protest is just a warning notice to the company, if they fail to send their top officials to discuss with the right leaders of the community and attend to their problems, I do not think that the people will sit down and watch them continue the humiliation,’ he stated.
‘What I can tell you is that we cannot be in the water, and soap enters our eyes and they say we cannot use the water to wash the soap.
‘There were people residing at a place we call Back of Fence, who the community pleaded with to vacate the area when CNL appealed to us that they want to use the area many years ago. As a community, we encouraged the people to quit, evaluations were done, lawyers were involved, but for over 15 years or so now, the compensation they promised have not been paid,’ he noted.
Ugborodo Youth chairman, Samuel Ekpono, who led the protest against CNL, said:’Another major concern of our people is the shoreline project that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, awarded, the contractors have abandoned the project because of lack of funding.”