The office entrance of Seplat Energy Plc in Oben, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State was Thursday barricaded for several hours by four host communities over an alleged unwholesome activity, neglect and marginalisation meted out to them by the company.
The host communities comprise Iguelaba, Ikobi, Oben and Obozogbenugu.
The situation would have been worse if not for the presence of military and police officers who were on the ground to bring the situation under control.
Giving reasons for the barricade, Secretary of Concerned Youths Development Equity and Initiatives, Mr Minister Asemota, alleged that Seplat had failed to do the needful since it took over the facility from Shell Petroleum Development Company 12 years ago.
He said there had been no visible development in the communities since 1972 when the oil firm started exploring crude oil from the communities, adding that the situation had never been that bad.
“We are here to protest against the unwholesome treatment of Seplat Energy Plc meted out to us. As you can see, there is no visible development in these communities. These oil fields were operated by Shell Company before now until Seplat took over a decade ago. As you can see, we are being marginalised.
“We have a lot of graduates in these communities, the graduates are not being employed. What we are asking for, they should as a matter of urgency, give our graduates slots of employment in this company. They should develop our communities,” he said.
Also speaking, a stakeholder in the Concerned Youths Development Equity Initiative, Mr Nosa Aisenoguan, said they decided to come out for the protest to address a lot of issues.
He said that a series of memoranda of understanding and agreements had been signed with the company but they did not honour them.
He said, “We are calling on the MD, Roger Brown to speak with us. As you can recall, we have had a series of memoranda of understanding with these people and they have not honoured any of them.
“They do not give us jobs and in terms of community contracts, most of the jobs are sold out to their people. Most of the graduate trainees’ jobs are not given to us. They only give us security jobs.
“Can you believe that these Oben Fields were supposed to have community managers, but we do not have a single manager from these communities? It has always been fraud, fraud and we are saying enough is enough.
“We call on the federal and state governments to look into our plights and caution Seplat so that most of these things can stop and they can give us what we truly deserve.”
Corroborating the view of other speakers, a former chairman of Welders Association and now Director of Mobilisation, Concerned Youths Development Equity Initiative, Mr Idemudia Kelly Osagiaro, said they had been fooled for too long.
He added that they decided to cry out because they were tired of the suffering brought to them by Seplat Energy Plc.
“We want the whole world to know and see what we are passing through,” he added.
Osagiaro said they have the richest gas in West Africa, but the federal and the state governments’ presence are not felt.
“They do not have electricity, no water and nothing seems to be existing in the communities. Today we made up our minds to engage them in protest until our demands are met.
“We want Seplat to come down and meet us here. Even if he calls us now, we are not going anywhere. We want the Managing Director, Roger Brown to come and meet us here.
“They just employed some people without taking any of our persons — ‘our Mumu don do’. We will not leave here until they answer us,” he said.
An attempt to get comments from the company was unsuccessful as the community Liaison Officer (CLO), Mr Osagiaro Aitiemwen, told journalists that the company had ordered him not to speak on the matter.
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