Niger Delta Women shut down Agip Oil Facility

Agip logo subvertMarch 23, 2007

A group of women from the Idheze community in Isokoland have once again shut down oil facilities of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) because have failed to pay promised compensation for damages caused by chemical/waste fluid of the firm flushed into the community. The people of Isokoland have experienced continued series of crisis over the past 15 years. (There are about 27 oil wells in the area). Many incidents have been a result of divide and rule tactics by the Nigerian government between and within ethnic minorities in Delta State and other states in the region. When there have been clashes the government has sent in mobile police resulting in death, injury and destruction of people’s properties. The last time I visted Oleh Town (the headquarters of Isoko South Local Government Area in 2000 women spoke of the brutallity of the mobile policie (MOPO) and how many of them lost their homes. I saw homes burnt down to the ground by the MOPO. Each time they come into the area people are afraid and run away and then their homes are looted and often burned to the ground.

“Many houses were burned down, many things destroyed, we loose all our property. Some people loose their money, everything concerning trading material many things lost. Some people now are not even staying in this town because all their house all their property has burned down. There is a lot of suffering. Both men and women they are suffering in this town. Up till now there are something children who are lost (missing) up till now we have never seen any certificate of children born.”

Now we have to wait and see how the government will respond to the women’s protest and hope that this time Obasanjo does not send in his army to protect the oil company and attack Nigerian women who are protesting against the environmental damage to their community by Agip which is is normal reaction to any protests against oil companies and facilities.

Recently, chemical/waste from the rig site was discharged into the swamp of Idheze leading to the death and destruction of aquatic life. Many dead aquatic animals were still afloat in the ponds yesterday. The women had early in December 2006 seized oil facilities belonging to Agip, owing to the failure of the company to implement an earlier agreement signed with the community on their entrance into their land. They revealed that a spill led to the death of seven adults and three children and also destroyed economic trees and crops in 1982.

The women carried placards, barricaded the main entrance of the company’s facilities and turned back all workers. Some of the placards bore inscriptions such as: “We are tired of the inhuman treatment of NAOC”, “We will continue to disrupt your activities until you meet our demands”, “Pay compensation for the chemical/waste fluid you have used to pollute our land.”

The women came to the premises with their utensils and food items, including bags of rice, yams, garri as well as canopies with which they erected makeshift tents. They vowed not to vacate the yard until their demands were met. According to them, after all that the community suffered as a result of the spill, Agip has refused to heed the advice of the inspectorate body of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) which ordered Agip to compensate the community.

Leader of the protesters, Mrs. Mercy Okunwa, who spoke on behalf of the community’s President-General, Joel Ogbru, accused the company of insensitivity to the plight of the locals as well as reneging on agreement reached with the community in Port Harcourt last December.

She said the non-challant attitude of NAOC to the issues of their community, led to a protest by the community on the December 19, 2006 to register their “vexation but until now none of the promises made by NAOC when they invited the community people has been implemented”.

She disclosed that many of the servicing companies operating in the rigs were “carrying out the job with the knowledge of Agip but detrimental to the community because none of them pays royalty to the community.”

They accused servicing firms such as SERIC, IMPEANTI, and KCA Deutage for flouting outrightly, agreements reached with the community, saying that Agip conspired with some of the servicing firms to rob the community of their entitlements. She lamented that contracts that should have been given to the indigenes were executed by outsiders.

“We are peace-loving people and knowing that Agip has been deceiving us, we wouldn’t want anything that will be detrimental this time to our people and so until the company’s management responds to our demand, we will not vacate the premises,” the aggrieved women declared.

Soldiers barred journalists from reaching the Community Relations Officer in charge of the Kwale Gas Plant of Agip, Prince Obi, who was at the premises addressing the protesters.