By Chancel Sunday
EGBEMO-ANGALABIRI— GENERAL Chairman, Egbemo-Angalabiri community, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, Mr. Simon Ebikebina, has cried out that there was no single federal, state government and Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, project in the oil-rich community.
Ebikebina, who spoke to NDV said: “I tell you the fact; we are like an abandoned people. There is no state government project in Egbemo-Angalabiri domain; there is no federal or NDDC project and no state governor has ever visited this oil-rich domain, except Governor Seriake Dickson during his second term campaign.
“We should be given the needed attention, as we lack basic necessities for human habitation. We heard that Seriake Dickson is a listening governor, so we are appealing that he should intervene and let us table the issues raised here, because we do not want our grievances to be misconstrued. We want Governor Dickson to call a meeting, where both parties can iron out issues.
‘Shell taking gratuitous advantage’
According to him, the community plays host to Shell Nigeria Limited and Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, which started operations in the community in the early 1960s and late 1970s, respectively, and Saipem, handling a major project for Shell for the past five years.
On efforts to draw the attention of the oil firms to their plight, he said: “We have Global Memoranda of Understanding, GMoU, with these companies and they are trying in terms of compliance. For example, we are six communities under the GMoU with Shell. However, the yearly amount from this agreement is small after sharing.
“We have made several efforts to seek the intervention of these companies on issues of community development, but Shell told us that it is not their duty to carry out community development projects. They said it is the duty of government to do so, as their agreement with Federal Government is 40/60 per cent.
“Shell also told us that it had no other option than to have the little understanding with us as well as do what they could to avoid disturbance from the community, since they are operating in our area.
“It is appalling to say that since the early 1960s till date, no Egbemo-Angalabiri son or daughter has been employed by Shell. This may sound unbelievable, but it is the raw truth.
“Shell trained four youths in our community some years back with a promise to employ them after the training. Two years after their training, the youths remain jobless in the community. Therefore, the youths protested and the community decided to delve into the case.
”In the end, Shell engaged the youths as contract staff in 2008 with a promise that they would convert them to permanent staff within two years. Until this moment, they are still working as contract staff.
“Shell has been taking undue advantage of Egbemo-Angalabiri community right from the inception of their operation here. At the time they came in the early 1960s, our fathers had little awareness and Shell took advantage of that and wants to still continue.
“We are passing through pains on daily basis when we see the natural endowment surrounding us with absolute nothing to show for it. Egbemo-Angalabiri is peace-loving and we have never given headache to our visitors or government. Government and these oil companies should treat us like human beings.
“Agip, on the other hand, has employed not more than two indigenes from the community. We insist that it employs our youths because we have many jobless youths, both graduates and skilled labour in the community.
“The issue we have with Agip is that it proposed cluster board is not according to standard.”