Opuama, oil-rich Ijaw community in Egbema kingdom, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta state, has cried out over what it foresees as impending crisis between itself and a neighbouring Itsekiri community due to neglect by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).
This was made known to GbaramatuVoice by a group of leaders from the community who pointed out that CNL has refused to heed to the directives of the community and so their action predicts doom for them.
It was gathered that CLN had recently drawn out plans to drill oil wells discovered in Gbene-ebite which is a village under Opuama Community. To that effect, CNL and the community had a meeting to discuss arrangement before the drilling began.
On the side of the community, CNL were directed to pass their operations through Lotu Creek but were insisting to link the new oil wells to RMP 17 which is their operational oil field since 2003.
RMP 17 was gathered to be a disputed land between the Ijaws and Itsekiri which had in the past led to a court case but was eventually struck out over the absence of the plaintiff, the Itsekiris.
The Itsekiris and the Opuamas both said they are part of the place. This disagreement had led to violence in past years.
The leaders made it known that if they are to link the new oil wells to RMP 17, since the two sides were having issues over the land, the Itsekiris may also want to lay claims to Gbene-ebite and this they said would lead to crisis.
They emphasized that Opuama was a peace abiding community in the local government area and doesn’t want fight.
“We don’t want crisis, we want peace to reign; and if Chevron wants peace to reign they should follow the directives of the community,” they unanimously said.
One of the community leaders, Mr. Esau Oyas, who spoke to GbaramatuVoice, said, “we want to tell Nigerian citizens what Chevron is about to do in Opuama community and its environs.
“Chevron is to drill some oil wells and if you have to drill oil wells, you have to meet the community and the community will guide you on what to do. But Chevron is forcing the community. They don’t want to take to what the community is telling them.
“If really they want to work on that place, they have to follow the directive of Opuama community. The location where the oil wells were discovered is at Gbene-ebite. Gbene-ebite is a village under Opuama community.
“Chevron has met with the community leaders and was told the passage they will use is just after Opuama called Lotu Creek, and they are saying that they want to pass through RMB 17 which is a disputed area. If they pass through RMP 17 it will cause crisis in the area and that is what the community doesn’t want.”
Also, the Secretary of Azama Community, Opuama, Elder Zebulon Joroki, said, “These particular oil wells Chevron discovered are new wells and not old ones.
“We don’t want them to use RMP 17. The place the community told them to pass through is Lotu Creek which is just at the end of Opuama.
“They came, did their survey work and then later they came and said they want to try the RMP 17 to know which will be more suitable for them.”
The Chairman, Education Committee of Opuama, Adanse Alex said that Opuama community had a stand and they were not going back on it. He said the two communities in question, Ijaws and Itsekiris had being in this problem since 2003 and that the issue which had led to fighting, killing and destruction because of RMP 17 was caused by CNL.
He said, “Our forefathers even till today they are still saying it. We have a covenant area there, in which Opuama cannot penetrate and Itsekiri cannot penetrate to the Ijaw side. And these wells we are talking about are at the back of Opuama community, but Chevron wants to link the Itsekiri people to be part of this land in question.
“If they link them to this land there is going to be destruction which Opuama people cannot relent. And what we are trying to tell Chevron is that if they want to work in peace in that land, they should follow the directives of the Opuama people to avoid crisis.
“Series of meetings has been held with Chevron but they are fully impressed to follow that road, but Opuama people cannot agree with them.
“Mr. Tony Mikere, who is an Isoko man, who is not part of the Itsekiri and some other people are pressing that they must follow RMP 17 to cause crisis between these communities.
“One of the meetings held with Tony Mikere, I was there and the chairman of Warri North Local Government was there. He was saying that they are trying to cut down cost.
“Now they want to cut down cost and cause crisis or let the cost come and there should be peace. This question was raised and he said he wants peace. So if they want peace they should pass through the proper channel the community is asking them to.”
He further disclosed that the issue was brought to the governor of the state, and the deputy governor is also aware through the youth president of the community. Chevron and other leaders were invited and they were told that if they follow RMP 17, there is going to be joint venture between the Ijaws and Itsekiris.
But the Opuama community was kicking against this as the argument is, it is their land, Gbene-ebite that the oil wells were discovered and the Itskeris had no business with it.
According to Mr. Alex, “The community is saying that we don’t want Chevron to pass through RMP 17, that they should follow Lotu Creek. They have done their survey work, sanding and everything, but they want to neglect that place to pass the one that is going to cause problem. If it happens there is problem in that place, Chevron should be held responsible.
“The statement they made when that case was going on in 2003 was, who wins the case will be paid the land fee and till now they have not paid it.
“We want to use this opportunity to tell Chevron to pay the land fee to Opuama community. They only paid a damage which was shared by both communities; the acquired land has not been paid, they should make the payment directly to Opuama community.
“Chevron can also link this new oil well to Opuakeba oil platform which is also under Opuama community than RMP 17 that had caused conflict in the past,” he concluded.