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BAYELSA COMMUNITY UP IN ARMS AGAINST AGIP OVER UNEMPLOYMENT OF INDIGENES

By NBF News
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In Bayelsa State regarded as the hub of the Niger Delta region, one recurring issue centres on brewing tension between the oil companies and host companies. While the issue of environmental degradation through the activities of oil companies occupies the front burner, that of non-employment of qualified indigenes of the communities is vexed matter.

Indeed one community that cannot allow the issue of the non-employment of its people remains unattended to is the Ogboinbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Having played host to Nigeria Agip Oil Company for 26 years with its eleven oil wells, the community have served notice that they would not take things lightly with Agip.

Recently the people of the community staged a peaceful protest to press home their demands for the people of the community to also be employed as staff of the oil company.

The community which claimed that it has over 200 qualified indigenes that can employed in Agip, noted that the employment of just two indigenes of the community several years ago should have been followed with subsequent employment for all other people.

The Chairman of the Community Development Committee, Elder Captain Edugo said the community has included its demands in the recent Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) it signed with the community. According to him, efforts to persuade the management of Agip which has over eleven oil wells in the Community and currently embarking on a gas gathering plant have been in vain.

He said: 'Since 1986 till date, Agip has not employed any of the indigenes as a permanent staff of the company. The management has turned deaf ears to our demands informed the peaceful protest being embarked upon by members of the community.

Even the ongoing gas gathering project known as 'Agip oil and Gas Flow Station up grade project, which has commenced in the last three years have no single indigene as a staff in spite of the availability of qualified man power among the indigenes of the host community'

In tandem with Edugo was the Secretary General of the CDC, Mr. Tari Daniel who appealed that government should prevail on the authorities of Agip to employ and embark on human capital development of indigenes of the host community.

Daniel recalled that over the years, members of the community have been protecting the Agip facility but it never dawned on the company to employ any of them as permanent staff.

'Since 1994 when NISCO commissioned Agip , we have been protecting this facility but Agip has not taken us seriously', noted Daniel who pointed out that the community is also suffering environmental impact of the company's activities.

Daniel said: 'In its EIA report, lots of impacts have been discovered in the course of the project. Gone were the days when Agip will give excuses of no qualified personnel in the community for employment. Today we are proud to say that we have over 200 qualified graduates in our community, Agip as the company operating in the community should employ them'.

Mr. Chris Brown, the Youth Leader of the CDC who shed more light on the  rationale behind the peaceful protest said the gas gathering project  which is nearing completion have not seen any of the indigenes employed.

He expressed disgust over the security agents' attitude   for labeling them miscreants even though they were carrying out peaceful and genuine protests.

'Now the project is almost completed and yet no indigene has been given permanent employment. We have for long been appealing to them to employ our people but they refused, and this informed our peaceful protest to draw the attention of government, we won't be violent, but Agip should recognize our importance,' he added.

Ms. Helen Diefa, the woman leader of the community lamented that Agip has not cared to embark on micro credit facilities for women in the area whose farmlands have been polluted.

Her words: 'Our mothers are suffering as they can't even go to their farms because the waters have been polluted by the company's activities. We need employment and credit facilities such as loans. No toilets and pipe born water, we need all these'

An ex-militant in the community, Mr. Eliot Erepamo, who say he is retired but not tired noted that the  Niger Delta and the oil companies need peace to operate, and advised Agip to live up to the demands of the host community to make permanent employment for the  qualified indigenes.

Sources said the management of Agip had intervened and have appealed to the community to suspend further protests which has been lined as the company is ready to engaged them in dialogue to resolve the matter.