Bayelsa community accuses Conoil of neglect, protests youth’s killing

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BY BRIGHT JACOB

Some aggrieved residents of Sangana Kingdom in the Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have expressed their displeasure against an indigenous oil firm, Conoil Plc, over the alleged negligence of the oil giant and the brutal killing of a youth identified as Benson Ikiowori.

The placard-carrying protesters alleged that soldiers guarding the Conoil Plc facility around the Oil Mining Lease 59 at the Otuo oilfield killed Ikiowori, and injured several others.

They also alleged that since the face-off some of the youths of the community had with the oil company and the security personnel, two other persons have been missing and injured persons hospitalised.

The protesters, comprising women, men and youths, informed that the attacked community youths, including Ikiowori had earlier mobilised to Conoil to demand that the company comply with its corporate social responsibility for the area.

However, following the incident which led to the present protests, the aggrieved protesters could be seen bearing different placards which bore inscriptions like – “We are tired of Conoil oppression”, “Stop killing us”, “Stop the shooting, stop the killing”, “Why kill an innocent youth?”, “Ikiowori Benson is dead”, “25 years of operation in Sangana, nothing to show for it”, among others.

The angry community residents thus demanded that the management of Conoil Plc should come and address the lingering issues, assuage them over the killing of their youth and account for the missing and hospitalised persons or get ready to vacate their environment.

The paramount ruler of Moko-ama in the Sangana kingdom, Moses Kenibara, condemned the oil company’s alleged poor attitude towards the community and the murder of Ikiowori, stressing that as the host community, they have nothing to show for the past 25 years the oil firm had been operating at the oilfield in their area.

He said, “They have rather impoverished the community. Before they started operation, there was no environmental impact assessment of the area. The community has been talking to them, but they blatantly refused. They write Memoranda of Understanding with the community but never implemented it. This is not acceptable because it isn’t the standard of operation, and we are aggrieved.

“Enough of the oppression, intimidation, and ill-treatment from this company. They renege on their own part of the agreements and still kill innocent people in the community, and some are missing while some (are) still critically injured in the hospital. We demand that Conoil should come and address all outstanding issues amicably or vacate our land,” Kenibara declared.

On his part, the youth president of Sangana community, Ambrose Ayah, accused Conoil Plc of treating the people as slaves since it started exploiting oil in their land, adding that “the current issue that caused the death of our brother was so needless because we were not holding anything like a weapon but they rather shot at us.”

Speaking separately, the chairman of the Ijaw Youth Council, Central Zone, Clever Inodu, and his Sangana clan counterpart, Otonbara Sigimo, condemned the use of armed military personnel by the oil company to attack the aggrieved indigenes of the area.

Inodu said, “You are in a place exploring their land and have nothing to show for it, is that not wickedness? When the people want to tell you their position, the company uses the military against them and kills them. This negligence from oil companies within our territories has to stop.

“We have resolved to follow this matter to the letter. Within the next 48 hours, Conoil must come and discuss, or it leaves Sangana. We will mobilise the people to the platform for another peaceful protest.”

An official of the Ijaw National Congress, Central Zone, Barry Ikosomi, who stated that the military onslaught on the armless and harmless youths was unacceptable, called on the relevant government authorities to wade into the problem “because our youths have given an ultimatum and it must be honoured.

“We have fought very hard to keep the peace in our community, and we won’t fold our hands to see Conoil disrupt the peace. The matter must be addressed within this time,” he insisted.