Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Hundreds of leaders and youths under the Augie’s of Itsekiri ethnic nationality, yesterday shutdown the Warri Zonal Office of Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to protest against alleged move by the commission to undermine the position of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 111 on the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The Olu of Warri, as the overlord of all Itsekiri communities, had compiled a list of Hosts Communities Trust Funds (HCTFs) but some indigenes are kicking against it noting that it was not specified in the PIA.
The placards carrying protesters stormed the NUPRC office located along Warri-Sapele Road as early as 7 a.m. preventing staffs of the commission access to their offices. They also erected canopies at the gate entrance threatening to continue to occupy the area until the management of the regulatory commission flies in from Abuja to attend to their demands.
The protesters also set up a kitchen besides the entrance to feed themselves for as long as they intend to stay until their demands were met.
Some of their placards read: “On Olu of Warri’s Stand on PIA We Stand,” “NUPRC Must Operate Within The Rule Of Law of The PIA and “Allow IOCs Breath” amongst others.
Prior to the commencement of the protests, the Itsekiris had thrown their weight behind the list of representatives of communities compiled by the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 111 as required by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Oma Eyewuoma, said that at the commencement of the PIA, the king invited all the Itsekiri communities to make nominations noting that the decision by the royal father was to ensure the active involvement of all the Itsekiri communities in line with the provisions of the Act and that the decision of the Olu of Warri superseded every other position as regards the implementation of the PIA in Iwereland.
“The Olu of Warri, at the start of the PIA, invited all the Itsekiri communities, the oil-producing communities to make nominations in order to be able to set up committees in line with the PIA Act. We will stand by the list Ogiame has put together; we will not allow anybody to add strange names into it.
“We can only stand by people who have clean slate and what the king accepted from the honest people from the various communities. Our people have also resolved that the era where few individuals convert the money and assets of Iwereland to their personal properties was over.
“We will go after all our assets and money that a handful of persons have been converting to themselves to the detriment of the generality of the Itsekiri people. The wealth of the Itsekiri nation must go round the people,” he said.
Eyewuoma warned that no group or organisation should alter what the people had compiled through the king and warned that any attempt to do otherwise, the people would “shut down all the flow stations and oil facilities in their domain.”
He said that they were reaching out to oil and gas supervisory institutions, particularly the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to ensure that things were done within the ambit of the law.
Spokesman of the protesters, Mr. Tenuma Joseph Olori, said that the Olu of Warri had constituted a board, known as Host Communities Trust Funds, for all Itsekiri communities as required by the PIA but alleged that a few people from the ethnic group were working against that for their selfish interests at the expense of the generality of Itsekiris.
He warned that the composition of the board made Olu of Warri, as the overlord of Iwereland, must be adhered to and that anything short of that will be met with stiff resistance.
Also, Mr. Clement Carpe, a community leader, said that the protest was against some few persons holding the entire Itsekiri nation into ransom and had to stop their move.