NPDC Oil Spill: Three Hospitalised As Soldiers Open Fire On Protesters In Delta
SAN FRANCISCO, September 22, (THEWILL) - At least three persons have been hospitalised in Erhoike community in Ethiope East Council Area of Delta State as soldiers shot at a group of protesters, demonstrating over an oil spill in their community.
It was not clear on whose authority the soldiers attached to the 222 Battalion had acted but a source said that the soldiers may have been drafted to the scene at the behest of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
THEWILL learnt that NPDC's pipeline had spilled crude oil on the community farmland of which hundreds of the protesters had protested, calling on NPDC official to come and tackle the mess but soldiers attached to the facility were said to have thrown caution to the wind as they shot sporadically at the protesters.
Sources said that a woman simply identified as Madam Victoria Efuko and one Freeborn Etavwototu were among those manhandled and hospitalised as a result of injuries sustained from the attack which had sparked protest in the community.
President General of the community, Matthew Oyibocha, who confirmed the report when contacted by journalists said the soldiers were attached at 222 Battalion, Agbarha Otor, Ughelli North Council Area.
According to him, the locals had gone to the NPDC facility to protest the oil spill and other irregularities in the area when they were allegedly confronted by soldiers drafted to the facility.
“The spill occurred precisely 6th of September 2014. It damaged our ponds, farmlands and it's affecting our economic and social lives as a people. We reported the matter to NPDC, operator of the facility which promised to address the issues.
“We were surprised to see the company on Wednesday September 17 coming in with youths from Otagbuwe in Kokori Community to clean up the spill impacted areas.
“This is a spill that has not been reported to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) for expected JIV to ascertain spread and impact on the community.
“The soldiers led by one Lt. Jatau claimed he was under the orders of the Commanding Officer, to deal decisively with the protesters and in the process, they shot sporadically in the air, molested and injured our people who were compelled to start a protest,' he said.
When contacted , the Commander, 222 Battalion, Lt. Col. Kenneth Chigbu, denied any molestation by his men at Erhoike, accusing the community of false claims.
Chigbu, said: “One Choice Umode, lawyer to the community based in Warri drew my attention. This is not the first time I am dealing with him. He has been to my office on several occasions pleading that the community has grievances with NPDC and wants to shut down the facility.
“I told him shutting down the facility would lead to altercation and violence. Let us live that aside and pursue dialogue. On several occasions he listened to me but I discovered he stays in Warri and whenever these perceive anything, they call to tell him what they perceive and he comes down to me and begin to talk as if he was on ground.”
Meanwhile, a senior External Relations Manager who spoke to newsmen on condition of anonymity said; 'No farm or economic activities is impacted. The spill is minimal and the spread is within the company's right of way.
“I think the real issue is that the community has a divided leadership. And the immediate trouble may not be unconnected with the choice of the contractor to handle the cleanup. These internal crises are not helping our operations at all.”