ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
People of Olugbobiri Kingdom in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on Tuesday locked down communities in the area over alleged government and oil companies’ neglect and insensitivity to their plights.
The angry protesters came out en masse to occupy strategic places in some communities that make up the Olugbobiri kingdom.
They halted commercial and economic activities in the oil-rich area to send a strong message to the relevant authorities of their backwardness, stagnation and lack of amenities.
They complained that the development was due to environmental degradation allegedly perpetrated by oil companies as well as government’s nonchallance and insensitivity to their plights and wellbeing.
The protesters, who chanted solidarity songs as they marched from one community to the other, expressed displeasure over lack of meaningful development in the area since the discovery and commencement of oil exploration in the kingdom in 1973.
They claimed that there was no tangible development and basic social amenities to show for as an oil bearing area, lamenting the absence of good health facilities, standard schools, power supply, among others.
The protesters vowed that they would continue the protest until the relevant authorities address the wrongs done to them such as total neglect of the kingdom by the government, environmental degradation and oil pollution by oil companies resulting in deprivation of their means of livelihood, poverty and hunger.
They cried out to oil companies operating in the area and the Bayelsa State government to address their problems and stop playing politics with their survival and wellbeing.
Speaking during the demonstration, one of the leaders of the protesting community folks, Mrs Ebiere Abel, complained that the women from the kingdom were being neglected and marginalised by the government.
She advocated a deliberate empowerment of the girl-child and the women in the kingdom in order for them not to be a burden by depending completely on the men for survival.
She complained that fishing and farming which are the major sources of their livelihoods have been bastardised by oil exploration activities thereby making it difficult for community members to live and survive.
Mrs Abel stated: “We are terribly suffering in this kingdom. It appears as if we are left to die. Nothing is happening. No amenities, nothing to write home about. Our means of livelihood have been badly affected and nobody is doing anything to help us.
“This protest came because our suffering has reached an unbearable level. We are crying out because we went the people to know what we are passing through in Olugbobiri kingdom. This is an oil producing area yet we live in squalor and in abject poverty because the relevant authorities failed to do the needful.”
Another leader of the protest, Comrade Teide Wakaman, blamed the underdevelopment of the Olugbobiri kingdom on selfish leaders who were willing to keep the people in darkness and in bondage just to amass wealth for themselves and their immediate families.
He also warned those collecting money from the multinational oil companies operating in the area for themselves at the detriment of the communities to desist or face the wrath of the people.
He alleged: “Apart from the insensitivity of the government and oil firms towards our plight, we are aware that some criminal elements from the kingdom have been collecting money meant for the communities from the oil companies. They are also part of the rot that has bedevilled our area.
“We are by this notice warning them to desist from the nefarious act because it is no longer going to be business as usual. They should know that every member of the kingdom has equal right to the collective resources of the area. We also appeal to the government to come to our aid. We are suffering seriously in this area.”