The people of four oil bearing communities; Assa, Obile, Ochia and Awarra in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, are protesting against alleged neglect by an oil giant company, Shell Petroleum, operating in the area.
Spokesperson for Assa North cluster, an umbrella body of the communities —Duke-Bright Enyia, addressing newsmen in Owerri, regretted that despite decades of oil exploitation in the area by the company, the people still lacked basic amenities like electricity, access road, portable water and health care facilities.
The protesters comprising men, women and youths of Assa North cluster in Ohaji-Egbema also lamented the non engagement of indigenes of the host communities as staff of the oil facility which has operated in the area for almost 60 years.
Premises of the Imo State Oil Producing and Development Commission (ISOPADEC) was occupied by the protesters who later proceeded to the State Secretariat at Owerri, the state capital, to get the attention of the Ministry of Petroleum.
Spokesperson for the group, Duke-Bright Enyia, called on the company to urgently recognise the community development board constituted by the state government for the purposes of interfacing with the company on matters relating to their welfare.
He appealed to the state government to prevail on the company to halt further diversion of empowerment programmes meant for the communities to other states, award scholarships to the youths and return local content jobs to the people of Asaa North cluster to guarantee peace in the area.
Septuagenarians, Joseph Ogbuji and Mercy Onyiriuka lamented environmental pollution from the oil company adding that lack of access roads hindered them from taking their farm produce to markets in the state capital.
Commissioner for Petroleum, Chief Goodluck Opiah, commended the protesters for their peaceful disposition noting that the government was engaging with the company to ensure they live up to their social responsibilities.
Ohaji-Egbema local government area is rich in oil and gas but has suffered neglect by successive administrations in the state and other development agencies.