Okrika youths protest marginalization of companies in O&G FTZ

Protesting youths*Clashes with Eleme youths, 6 injured, 4 missing

Mkpoikana Udoma

18 November 2014, Sweetcruded, Port Harcourt –
Business activities was on Monday grounded at Onne, a suburb of Port Harcourt and Rivers State capital, host to the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone, as youths from Okrika and Ogu communities allegedly loyal to ex-militant leader, Mr. Ateke Tom, blocked the multi billion dollars FTZ that also hosts Federal Ocean Terminal, FOT, and the Federal Lighter Terminal, FLT.

The youths numbering up to 700, all dressed in red and black attires carrying a casket with fire and machetes were said to be protesting over alleged marginalization, lack of patronage and employment by the companies operating at the Onne Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone.

A senior staff of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority who pleaded anonymity said there were sounds of gunshots around the roads leading to the gate of the Onne seaport as well as bonfire made by the youths who were dancing and chanting war songs in Okrika language.

She said some youths from Eleme who confronted the protesting Okrika youths were cut with machete, while some are feared dead, as properties were also destroyed in the process.

She also confirmed that men of the Nigerian Army used teargas to dislodge the protesting youths.

According to her, “They came out this morning with a coffin, dressed in red and black with a fire inside the coffin, they wounded some Eleme youths who stood in their way, inflicting matchete cuts to their heads”.

“The protest according to them is due to the neglect of Okrika youths in the employment by most of the companies operating in the Onne Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone,” she said.

6 injured, 4 missing
The Caretaker Chairman of Eleme Local Government, Prince Awalanta Ejiri confirmed to SweetCrudeReports in a telephone interview that 6 people were injured in the attack, while four remain unaccounted for.
The Eleme Caretaker Chairman said the 6 persons who were critically injured suffered gunshot wounds during the protest.
“As I speak to you now, we have 6 Eleme youths lying critically down at the hospital (Famo Clinic in Eleme) due to gunshots, we have 4 others who have been reported missing, we are yet to find these four. The casualties are at the moment is so high,  we are looking at 10 right now.  But I think coming all the way from Okrika Local Government to Eleme Local Government to do a protest is completely unacceptable, we think it is too aggressive and it is capable of leading to break down of law and order, so we condemned it in its entirety”.
Prince Awalanta Ejiri, the Eleme Caretaker Chairman also expressed worries over the incessant protest by Okrika youths claiming ownership of the Onne seaports.

Ateke reacts

Meanwhile, Mr. Ateke Tom has denied sponsoring the protesters, but supported the reasons behind the protest.

“I am aware of the protest, but if they are protesting legitimately for their rights, I don’t see anything wrong in that. Does it now mean that anytime protests are carried out by Okrika youths that means I am aware and I sponsored it or must know about them,” he queried.

When contacted over the incident, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ahmad Mohamed assured that the men of Police were on top of the situation.

The Onne Federal Ocean Terminal is one of the deep sea terminals in Nigeria, mainly for import, export and cargo shipping, while the Onne Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone in Rivers State, is the only Free Trade Zone in the world dedicated solely to the oil and gas industry.

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