10 August 2016, Warri – Protesting elders, leaders, women and youths of Ugborodo, an Itsekiri community in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, have laid siege to the Escravos Tank Farm, belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, alleging neglect and discrimination by the multinational oil conglomerate.
Vanguard learned that the angry villagers, who set bonfires occupied the company’s premises since Tuesday and remained their till this morning. Reports from the area said that the villagers cordoned the gate preventing access in and out of the company through the gate.
While the villagers were protesting outsiders, some of affected workers complained inside. However, the company airlifted some workers out with helicopters, while tension has enveloped the area. Security agencies were making efforts to calm the irate villagers, who refused to leave the company until their demands were looked into, accusing the firm of playing hide and seek with them.
Contacted, General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, CNL, Mr. Deji Haastrup, simply stated: “We are engaging them.”
Youth President of the community, Mr. Ofe Nene, confirmed the siege to Vanguard, Wednesday morning, that the company was breaching the Local Content Policy, LCP, put in place by government to regulate its operations with host communities.
He said: “The first thing is that there is supposed to a New Town project in Ugborodo because of the enormous Chevron project in the area and impact on the people, but the company has decided to abandon the project because it believes the people do not know their rights and cannot speak.”
“Also, it is about doing turnaround maintenance, TAM, but for about two months that we complained in a letter to them that they are not carrying us along, they have been deceiving us. We are in Ugborodo, but they will invite us to a meeting in Warri, when we get to Warri, they will either tell us that the date is not feasible or that so and so management official was not available,” he said.
Nene said: “They take us as fools, as people who do not know their left from their right, which is why they treat us this way. We know about the LCP, but they are engaging our people like without condition of service as we are slaves.”
“For instance, we have over 400 community people with them, they make them to work for six months or so, after that, they would sack them, make them to stay at home for a month or two, then they say that they have reengaged them again. Some of them have been working for over 14 years and there is not condition of service,” he bemoaned.
Another villager, who spoke on phone, added: “They do not consider us in employment; they just want to make casual workers for eternity. Ugborodo is host to over 200 oil wells, why should they treat us as if we are inconsequential.”
“Even the Federal Government is also neglecting us; we have not representation in the federal government as I speak to you. The appointment we have in the NDDC, they have taken it away from us,” he asserted.