& Akpokona Omafuaire
5 December 2011, Sweetcrude, WARRI- PLACARD-CARRYING youths from Iteskiri, Ijaw and Ilaje host communities to the Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, laid siege to the company’s office in Warri, Delta State, yesterday morning, over the failure of the oil firm to give them employment.
The protest by the aggrieved youths, both male and female undergraduates caused panic in the in the company, as they barricaded the gate with a Toyota bus, while chanting war songs.
As if to underscore their seriousness, the protesters came with canopies to provide shelter from the sunny weather and cooking utensils to prepare food. In fact, pots of rice were on fire when this reporter visited the company. They also tied some fetish objects to the gates.
Attempts by security men to scare them away by firing gunshots indiscriminately into the air were rebuffed and in order not to cause bloodshed, they tactically retreated and allowed them to erect canopies in front of the gate.
An official of the company who was contacted on phone said, “It is true that some youths protested this morning (yesterday) and blocked our gate, but it is those of them that our employment interviews that are protesting, those that passed have been given employment. Some of them received their employment letter today (yesterday).
“As I speak with you (about 3.30pm), they are still in a meeting with management on their grievances and I hope that before or by 4.00 pm, they will dismantle their barricade. The company gave employment to those that passed the interview”, he added.
However, the protesters, whose placards bore inscriptions such as, “Employment should take place in Escravos and not hotel room”, “Relocate Ogere Training School to Warri”, “Chevron, don’t turn our graduates to Boko Haram”, and “Chevron, stop playing on our intelligence” , accused the company of bias.
The leader of the protesting youths, Mr. Ben Eburajolo had earlier told these reporters, “Chevron is playing on our intelligence, they have deliberately refused to sign the communiqué that is meant to give us our quota of employment in both Chevron and Escravos -Gas –to-Liquid, EGTL, project .
“We have written severally to CNL to no avail, they keep shifting the date. We heard that some elders and CNL met with the governor and they stressed some flimsy excuses why they cannot sign the communiqué.
“We will stay here till the communiqué is signed; we will cripple their operations till they meet our demands. When we came, we were threatened by security operatives, they shot six times into the air to scare us but we won’t go. We want action and not empty promises.”
Another protester added, “Chevron always employ in Lekki and send them to Escravos to work, we want it to stop, we cannot have oil here and suffer while other people enjoy it. We will go violent if that is how we can achieve success; enough is enough of their pranks.”