Mkpoikana Udoma 20 June 2017, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – Hundreds of indigenous contractors from various oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, including Southern Ijaw, were on Tuesday dispersed by security operatives on their way to stage a protest against the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, in Port Harcourt.
Soldiers, Police disperse protesting Agip contractors in Port Harcourt
The protesters under the aegis of Agip Indigenous/Landlord Contractors Association, AILCA, said they were aggrieved over the refusal of Agip to renew their contracts, pay them their outstanding debts as well as other unfair labour issues with the company.
The protesters, numbering over 500, were dispersed at Agip Junction by Ada-George Road in Port Harcourt, on their way to the gate of the company by security operatives made up of Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Leader of the protest and Chairman Technical Committee, Agip Indigenous/Landlord Contractors Association, Chief Livinus Okpuakpa, narrating the ordeal of the group to newsmen expressed dismay that the security outfits (which dispersed the protesters) all received a letter from the contractors notifying them of the insincerity of Agip as well as informing them about the protest.
Okpuakpa said the protest became imperative because some of the contractors are being owed for over two years, adding that the company has failed to renew some expired contracts with the host community contractors.
“We came here this morning just to muster ourselves somewhere and wear our costume and to carry placards to Agip gate so that the company can talk to us. But on arrival here, as we were trying to distribute our protest materials to our member, we saw military men; they came and started beating some of us.
“The soldiers, the police, the Civil Defence; all the forces you can think of in this country are here present. Just because the Managing Director of Agip, Mr. Massimo Insula, from Italy has called them (soldiers and police). Look at how one of us was manhandled, he was beaten up while all his money was collected.”
The group queried if they had to vandalised oil facilities before the management of the Italian oil giant would give them audience.
The Technical Committee Chairman of the group explained that they have sent a letter to the Acting President, when he was the Vice President, and had made several overtures to Agip for a peaceful resolution of the matter but they were all turned down.
Okpuakpa also said there are over 800 contractors in the group, and vowed to re-strategize until either Agip kills every landlord contractor or the Federal Government intervenes and bring peace to the matter.
“They are telling us we must not protest; So, the question is this; must we go and destroy oil installations to drive home our demands? Must we not come peacefully, protesting to drive home our rights? Are they telling us that violence is the best solution to problems? We have exhausted all peaceful avenues.
“This issue came to a climax on the 14th of March, this year when were to come on a similar protest. That was when the present Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Zaki, assumed duty. He immediately called us for a peaceful discussion and we obliged because what we are looking for is the solution to the problem.
“Agip is stubborn; the police known it, the CP and his team confessed to it. The issue is that Agip will give us contract and will refuse to pay and sometimes we won’t have access to them and when they pay they pay peanuts, for an instance, bush clearing, Agip is paying us N4.4 per square metre while Shell is paying over N220 per square metre. These are minor jobs that gives you between N100,000 and N200,000. You can’t even pay those people you have used to do the jobs.”
When contacted for a reaction over the issue, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, said the protesting contractors, Agip representatives and the security agency have held a tripartite meeting over the matter and have reached a consensus.