16 April 2014, Benin— Operations at the Obayanto operational office of Zakhem Construction Nigeria Limited in Edo State were shut down, yesterday, by members of the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas over what they described as the company’s neglect and violation of their fundamental rights.
Zakhem Construction is the company responsible for the laying of the West African Gas Pipelines from Oben, in Edo State, to Lagos.
Amidst dancing and singing, the protesters, who laid siege to the premises of the company as early as 8a.m., prevented workers that had closed shift from coming out and also stopped those that were outside, including those that came to do business, from entering.
Addressing the protesters, Chairman of the group, Dr. Sam Igbineweka, who was flanked by other members of the executive, said that they decided to picket the company after all legitimate means adopted by them to bring about a meaningful dialogue failed.
He said: “We are not opposed to the development and progress of our communities. We urge the management of Zakhem Construction to tow the path of honour, genuine dialogue and reconciliation. We love peace, progress and development, but we shall not accept oppression and intimidation.”
He explained that a meeting called by the company in Lagos to iron out issues bordering on their complaints was a smokescreen calculated to intimidate them into total submission as the company sent its legal representatives to meet with them instead of its management team.
He said: “We consider the decision by the management of the company to engage its solicitors, rather than face the challenges themselves, as very disgusting and appalling.
“We knew that nothing meaningful would come out of the meeting when lawyers were engaged to handle communities’ affairs with a company that had failed in its responsibility.
“While we appreciate the desire by Zakhem to initiate community projects in tandem with the principles of corporate social responsibilities, we also observed that the meeting was designed to downplay the legitimacy of our association, which oversight responsibilities it is to see that companies operating in our environment are alive to their social responsibilities.”
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