Youths of Ilile Community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State on Tuesday, February 22 halted activities at Sterling Global Oil Company Ltd over what they termed as negligence of the community by the oil firm.
The protesting youths numbering about 100 said the oil company would not continue with its oil exploration activities in their land until it meets its demands.
They bore placards with different inscriptions such as “Sterling Global Company, we don’t need war, come and settle our community”, “we say no to injustice, stop working”, “we say no to self appointed committees”, “we need peace, the land belongs to the community not an individual”.
Addressing the protesting youths, the President General of Ilile Autonomous Community, Mr. Athanasus Nwagbara decried the failure of the company to settle the community and the land owners before carrying out exploration activities in their land.
He equally condemned the use of cabals by the company to deny the community and the land owners their due right, describing it as unfortunate that the same cabals have prevented the company from reaching the community and land owners.
He said: “The community is not aware of any payment, agreement or documentation has being done”.
The PG urged the company to as a matter of urgency brief them on their terms of operation and job content, saying it was wrong for the company to form a committee without the knowledge of the community.
In his speech, the Youth President, Ilile autonomous community, Chibuike Nzekwe expressed surprise that the company had commenced exploration work at the site even when they have refused to settle both the community and land owners.
He stated the essence of their protest rally was to register their grievances to the company by stopping work at the company till the right things were done.
He said that from the look of the environment, the company has brought in their chippings, gravels and sand which is a signal for commencement of work at the site.
Also speaking, a stakeholder in the community, Prince Azubuike Ekezie expressed surprise that he returned home during the last Christmas to discover that there is an access road passing through his land to the company site without his consent.
He added that even exploration work has commenced without the company making any effort to reach the owners of the land.
According to him, he found out that a committee had single handedly been picked to mediate between the community and the company without his knowledge.
Prince Ekezie said that a petition was quickly made to Inspector General of Police which resulted in the arrest of the leader of the committee who was warned to steer clear of the site.
He recalled of a stakeholders’ meeting held in the community during which the said committee was dissolved for reconstitution because the members were not the choice of the community.
He described as unfair a situation whereby an oil company like Sterling Global would bulldoze itself into the community land for exploration without consultation with the owners of the land.
He said: “Even cassava, palm trees and other valuable crops in farm were destroyed without the company paying compensation to the owners”.
Reacting to the issue, the Chief Security Officer of Sterling Global Oil Company, Mr. Jideofor denied all the allegations leveled against the company, adding that the company did not bulldoze itself into any community land.
He said the process of acquiring the land started three to four years ago, adding that the company during that period met the traditional ruler of the community where every negotiation was made.
Jideofor said that the company carried out every negotiation, documentation and payment, adding that the community was even granted the right to bring an independent valuer who has full documentation, pictures and power of attorney before payment was made.