Residents of five villages comprising elderly men, women and youths in Obite, Ogba Egbema Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, have occupied a gas plant owned by Total E&P Nig.Ltd.
The protsesters, who vowed to remain in the facility, lamented that the oil firm had refused to obey the 2018 Supreme Court judgement on compensation for land it acquired in the area for its operations.
Mr. Daniel Clifford Uma, one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court’s suit said though the court ordered Totalto pay the communities in 2018 on a matter that commenced in 2005, the firm had refused to obey the judgement
He said the community was demanding about N2.5bn from the company as compensation for all hectares of land it acquired before the matter and while the case was still in court.
He said: “The protest is because of total negligence from Total E and P. This thing started 22 years ago. Some of the people that started this matter have died.
“We started this matter when Elf came to aquire this land, 28.8 hecters of land. When this started we told them to pay us our land compensation, the land and claim manager said the Land Use Act does not allow multinationals to pay for land acquisition.
“The communities went to court, in 2005 we got judgement in our favour in a court in Ilorin, Kwara State. They went on appeal and in 2006 the Appeal Court also ruled in our favour. They proceeded to the Supreme Court. On the 19 of January 2018, the court also ruled in our favour.
“We sent the judgement to France and we copied them here to come for negotiation. Meanwhile, the matter was in court; they came and acquired 98.4 hecters of land in addition to the earlier 28.8. Till now they have ignored us. Anytime we come to seek the implementation of the judgement they will use security men to intimidate us.
“We are here to tell the whole world what is happening to us here. They should come and pay us our land compensation. There is no employment for our youths”.
Explaining further, he said: “What the Supreme Court gave in their judgement is that the company should compensate us against their own claims. The court that time awarded N25million for the 28.8 hecters. But today we are demanding N2.5bn. If they do not come for negotiation we are not leaving here.
“Another aspect of it is that we do not have a running Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company and we pleaded it in court.
“We only here that there is Environmental Impact Assessment but we have not seen it. There was a time when there was explosion in this gas plant we carried out our own EIA, we submitted it to them they rejected it.
“What they built here is not for the community it is for multinational, so they should compensate us. They have flooded out community with military and the elders have said we are not leaving here until they meet our demands.”
Also an elderly Chief, who identified himself as S.O. Brown, decried the refusal of Total to engage the community in dialogue saying the operations of the company denied them their sources of livelihood.
He said: “We won them in all the courts we went to. We have told them that after the court it was time for dialogue but the company refused. We are not leaving until they attend to us.
“This facility has caused a lot blindness. We don’t drink rain water any more because of contamination many are sick and some have died. The worst is that they are not employing our youths. We shall be here till we get what we want.”
When contacted, Total’s Manager, Project and Corporate Communication, Senan Murray, said the firm had continued to maintain cordial relationships with its host communities.
He said the company would address issues raised by its host communities in an official statement.
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