FRESH trouble is brewing in the Niger Delta after several Itshekiri communities in Delta State have told 1,050 new refinery staff just recruited by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNDC) that they are not welcome in the area.
Over recent weeks, the NNPC has deployed the new staff to Delta State as part of an expansion plan. However, the leadership of the various Itsekiri oil-producing communities comprising Ubeji, Aja-Etan, Ijala-Ikenren and Ifie-Kporo have declared that they can no longer guarantee the safety of new recruits when their own children are made to serve them.
According to the communities, the NNPC had decided to recruit all these new refinery employees, without deeming it necessary to give out any slot or allocation to the local communities. To make matters worse, this happened at a time the corporation sacked about 850 indigenes from its workforce, many of whom it had used as casual workers for years.
In a communiqué jointly signed by the trustees and chairmen of the various Itsekiri communities, including Erewa Clement, Billy Ekenle, Prince Adolphus Tosanwumi, Clifton Edema and Ofoyelu Izuagia, the Itsekiri host communities demanded that their kinsmen, who were unjustly sacked be reinstated to their duty posts immediately with improved working conditions. They warned that if this does not happen, the NNPC should be ready to stop all operations on the area.
“We are ready to take on the NNPC this time around and we will deploy all available forces within our reach,” the Itsekiri host communities declared. Meanwhile, the people of Edo and Delta communities in the Niger Delta have threatened to stop the ongoing bidding for the award of marginal oil fields in the region.
A group known as the Elite of Egbema Kingdom issued the threat, demanding equity in the bidding process. Their statement signed by Joel Bisina and Ebitimi Ukori, acting chairman and secretary of the group, warned that the Egbema people would resist any lopsidedness in the award of the 57 marginal oil fields to prospective operators.
According to the group, as a result of the exploration of oil and gas in their communities, the Egbema Kingdom has suffered environmental degradation and their livelihoods have been destroyed over the years. They also demanded the minimum of a 25% equity holding on all the fields within Egbema territory if the federal government wanted an unfettered access by bid winners.