Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Palpable tension has enveloped host communities to Oil Mining Lease (OML) 30 being operated by Heritage Energy Operational Services (HEOSL) over alleged refusal to meet its social responsibilities to the people since 2017.
There has been series of protests by the host communities in the past few weeks leading to the barricade of the oil firmâ€™s entrances to press home their demands.
THISDAY however observed that the rancour came to climax last Wednesday at an all-encompassing meeting held by stakeholders, including traditional rulers, Community Representative Committee (CRC) as well as the Community Development Board (CDB), at the palace of the Ovie of Ughelli Kingdom, Dr. Wilson Ojakovo, Oharisi lll.
At the meeting, which dragged into the night, participants were angry over allegations of invasion of OML 30 communities by military men, who were supposedly brought in by new, yet-to-be introduced oil operators.
According to them, they were equally uncomfortable with an internal transition from one oil company to another without proper introductions to community leaders.
Apart from that, the host communities also alleged that the known operator, HEOSL, had failed to meet its necessary obligations since it was introduced to them in March 2017.
While addressing the stakeholders, the secretary of the royal father, the host to OML 30, the Ovie of Ughelli Kingdom, tasked all the stakeholders to unite and form a formidable force against the erring company.
Acknowledging that their people have been continually marginalised and disregarded by the oil company, the royal father maintained that all hands must be on deck to ensure that HEOSL is stopped from causing more havoc.
â€œWe do not benefit much from the business of oil exploration that is being carried out in our lands, and we are ready to do something about that. We want this trend that has continued for so long to stop.
â€œRather than take advantage of the ongoing transition among the operators to negotiate our stake in the oil business as a united people, we are divided among ourselves.
â€œI therefore want to appeal to us that this is not the time to fight among ourselves. If we do that now, we should not blame the oil corporations for divide and rule in the future, because we would have succeeded in dividing ourselves for them to take advantage once again.
â€œBut now is the time for us to determine how best we can benefit from the oil exploration business in OML 30. If we can focus our energies in achieving that we will have no reason to regret this decision in the future,â€ the monarch said.
In a related development, two persons were reported to have died in Agbarha-Owhewhe community as a result of the actions of OML 30â€™s oil operator
The CRC Chairman, Chief Victor Ohare, told the gathering that all efforts to reach the Managing Director of HEOSL to address the recent developments as well as the failings of the company had received no response.
â€œThe new company that has been alleged to come and take over the community relations department which is AA Peace Works has created a kind of division in the community, most especially establishing a deployment of community coordinator without the knowledge of the traditional rulers and the PGs and that is creating tension in some communities already,â€ he stated.