Creek communities in Nembe Kingdom, Bayelsa State on Friday voiced their frustration over unresolved crisis between them and an oil firm operating in their area, Aiteo Production and Exploration.
The communities said they had run out of patience and vowed to disrupt the operations of the oil firm if their demands were not given immediate attention.
Accusing Aiteo of indifference and nonchalant attitude to their plight, the communities said theI creeks were so polluted by the company that their lives were in danger.
The communities spoke out in a letter addressed to the company, government authorities, security agencies and other stakeholders and titled, ‘Make your choice: our blood or our oil’.
The letter was copied to the Amayanabo of Nembe Kingdom, His Eminence, King Dr. E. M. Daukoru, Mingi XII; Bayelsa Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd); Area Commander, Nigeria Police Force, Nembe; Commander, Joint Task Force, Nembe, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, among others.
Those, who signed the letters, were Amadabo of Nembe Creek Communities, His Highness, Kemmer F. Igbeta; Vice-Chairman, United Nembe Creek Fishermen and Farmers Association (UNCFFA), Chief Nimi Lawson Peters and other executive members of UNCFFA.
The communities said: “AITEO Production and Exploration took over the Nembe Creek Oilfields from Shell Petroleum Development Company’s divestment.
“Ever since that divestment, the corporate social relations and responsibilities have deteriorated unprecedentedly. AITEO’s reckless oil operations in terms of environmental pollution and degradation, and spoilage of the ecosystem have become so rampart and free that the entire Nembe Creek territory have been reduced to a no-man’s land.
“Recall that on 26 July 2016, a major crude oil spillage occurred from Flow Station 2 and crude oil oozed from the pipes for several days and spread to the creeks and the sea by the aid of the ebb and flow of the tide”.
They said another major spill occurred on September 17, 2016 and March 2018, without efforts by the company to clean and reclaim the environment.
They said the firm snubbed all their letters requesting for a meeting to discuss an immediate and comprehensive clean-up and remediation of the affected area; provision of relief materials to the affected communities and payment of adequate compensation impacted communities.
They said: “We have explored several means to have an opportunity for us to sort out these issues with AITEO, yet, the company has appreciated none of these gracious olive branches.
“We have written letters and made series of verbal reports to AITEO officials on site – through the CLO, Mr. Omungu – to request for an end to the incessant oil spillages, as our main fishing occupation have become endangered due to the despoliation of the marine habitat, and destruction of aquatic life, which is being pushed to near extinction gradually.
“We have become jobless and idle with no succour or hope. Our young men have also resigned to idleness, drug use and conducts regarded as anti-social tendencies.
“Yet, AITEO has not responded in any way to any of our peaceful overtures, so far. Rather, crude oil spillages have continued unabated without any preventive initiative from Aiteo to date.
“As a result, we have come to the sad conclusion that Aiteo has a hidden agenda with an objective of annihilating us and wiping our communities and settlements off the creeks of Nembe Kingdom through a policy of systematic pollution, despoliation and destruction of the entire area.
“Nevertheless, being law-abiding people of the ancient Nembe Kingdom, we are once again appealing to Aiteo to convene a meeting for us – the people directly affected by the spillages – to sit down and discuss cleanup, provision of relief materials and compensation.
“Furthermore, in order to avoid unnecessary break down of law and order in the area, we are using this medium to strongly solicit the quick intervention of the authorities and security agencies copied hereunder;
“It is a known fact that such blatant acts of oppression and injustice form the root causes of some of the intractable crises that are afflicting parts of the country.
“We must not blame the heinous atrocities of oil scavengers on our hardworking Federal Government and security agencies”.