Ijaw Youths Threaten to Halt Agip Operations in Bayelsa

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By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Two oil-bearing towns in Bayelsa State at the weekend threatened to shut down the operations of Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) over the oil giant’s alleged refusal to honour a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered with the communities.

Leaders of Ogboinbiri and Azuzuama, the affected areas, who spoke during a protest march to  the President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Eric Omare, argued that each time they raised any issues, the company was in the habit of deploying the military to the area.

Led by the Chairmen of the areas, Tari  Okoso and Walter Job-Molo respectively, the communities informed the IYC youth leader that Agip had refused to comply with the contract which was mutually agreed upon by both parties.

The host communities noted that part of the understanding was for the company to carry out developmental projects that would enhance the quality of life of residents of their areas of operation.

“We have been pushed to the wall and we have issued an ultimatum to shut down Agip operations in the communities by asking Agip workers to leave,” they declared.

It was gathered that Agip produces a combined daily output of about 50, 000 barrels of crude oil in both communities in the state.

The communities also complained of persistent oil spillage by the company in the affected communities without payment of compensation and thereafter resorting to “persistent military harassment.”

The protesters recalled that in 2007, “the mismanagement of an MoU by Agip in Ogboinbiri community led to the death of more than 67 persons including security personnel.”

 They added that a fire incident at Azuzuama community “from the negligence of Agip in 2015 led to the death of several persons including Late Linus Epunumokumor in respect of which Agip has refused to pay compensation to the family up till date.”

Responding, Omare urged the oil company to comply with the MoU entered with its host communities and observe international best practices in the oil and gas industry in its operations to avoid a complete halt to its operations after the expiry of the ultimatum.

The President of IYC called on Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and the federal government to prevail on Agip to respect the MoU  “to avoid a violent shut down of operations with grave security and economic implications.”

The youth leader also called on the multinational to respect Nigerian laws on environmental protection and payment of compensation to its host communities.