ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The protest embarked upon by residents of Twon-Brass, host community of Nigerian Agip Oil Company’s Export Terminal in Bayelsa State has entered the 10th day with economic activities of the area still grounded.
Protesting residents have continued to occupy the premises of the NAOC even after power supply, which formed the main crux of their protest, has allegedly been restored.
The residents on May 14, 2021, began demonstration, disrupting activities at the oil firm by blocking access to the facility in protest over alleged two months power outage and neglect of social obligations by the oil major.
The management of Eni, Italian parent company of NAOC, had announced in a statement last Friday that power supply to the area had been restored.
It said the restoration of power followed repair works on a power cable damaged by thunderstorms.
Eni asserted that the ongoing protest did not affect oil export adversely, hoping that there would be normalisation of operations in the next few days.
But a resident of Twon-Brass, Mr Taribalalate George, claimed in a telephone interview that the power situation had yet to stabilise hence the people refused to vacate the protest site.
He said: “As we speak, there is no power in Twon-Brass but they brought the light last Friday but it has been going off and on and we are suspicious that it is a ploy to disperse the people while the power issue persists.
“The protest is still on. This is because we have so many issues bordering on Agip’s neglect of their social obligations as spelt out in our Memorandum of Understanding. However, it was the power outage that sparked off the protest and we insist that all other issues are resolved as well.”
He explained that the community leadership and some government officials were expected to come to the protest site at Agip’s Terminal gate to interact with the protesters and update them on progress made in the negotiations but they had not shown up as of Monday morning.
He said the women were at the frontlines while the youths remained at the fringes to avert further escalation and conflict with armed soldiers deployed to protect the facility to ensure that the agitation for community development remains peaceful.
Recall that the protest became violent on May 19 when the traditional ruler of the kingdom, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, went to appeal to the protesters to disperse while their grievances were being discussed with NAOC.
The protesters attacked Diete-Spiff, vandalised his palace and vehicle before he was rescued and whisked away by security operatives.
Also, a 24-year-old man was allegedly shot and some other persons were injured by soldiers deployed to maintain law and order in the area.