…as Bekikiri community in Bayelsa State cries exclusion
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
House of Representatives Committee on Host Communities has warned First Exploration and Production Development Company, an oil exploration firm against stifling the hearing of a petition by Bekikiri community of Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State against the firm.
The committee also asked the company not to deny oil host communities of their rights and compensations.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Dumnamene Dekor gave the warning at the hearing of a petition by Bekikiri cluster of communities against the company for allegedly excluding them as host communities in its area of operation.
The hearing was attended by a delegation of Bekikiri community led by a and the representatives of the company.
The Chairman while leading the proceedings discovered the company mobilized some members of Akassa communities, who were covered by the company’s Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) for the hearing instead of the affected communities.
Dekor said that the Committee could not recall extending an invitation to Akassa communities.
To this end, he queried the development and asked the company why it mobilized non-parties to the petition without the knowledge of the committee.
“I am not aware that the committee invited Akassa community to this hearing and if the First E and P brought them here, it shows the intention of the companies to apply same divide-and-rule tactics they have always used to get away with shabby treatment of host communities; and we will not accept it,” he said.
The Committee also refused to grant audience to the representatives of the uninvited communities in spite of repeated pleas by some members to “hear their side of the story since they are already here.”
Dekor however promised that the Committee will visit the affected area to ensure a thorough investigation and dispensation of justice.
Earlier, the spokesperson of the Bekikiri community; Mr. Ndagadaga while presenting their case said their communities had suffered long period of neglect and the refusal to be included as host community initially by Chevron Nigeria Limited who were the operators of the oil field and currently by First E&P which bought the asset from Chevron.
According to him, the exploration activities of the companies have over the years affected their means of livelihood and the environment, regretting that no compensation had been paid by the companies.
He said that several attempts to get the company to include Bekikiri and 17 others as host communities were rejected by the firm even as “they drill a field from my kitchen.”
In his defence, the Managing Director of First E&P, Mr. Darlington Okoga said that they inherited the current host communities from by Chevron Nigeria Limited the previous operators of OML 85 and OML 83 who handed them over, noting that the oil field was only acquired in 2017.
He added that the company had entered into a GMOU with several host communities, all of which obligations have been fulfilled.