Indigenes of Asarama community in Andoni Local Government of Rivers State have threatened to embark on a peaceful protest against Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, over alleged neglect of their rights and privileges in the ongoing multi-billion Bodo-Bonny road construction.
They expressed their grievances in a statement in Port Harcourt titled: “Provocative conspiracies and sabotage against the interest of Asarama people by Julius Berger PLC”.
It was signed by the Chairman, Asarama Divisional Council of Chiefs, Macmoses Jiawaireakong; Council Secretary, Chief Okikereawaji Nkangwung; CDC Chairman, Elder Mark Animisa; among others.
They said the statement was meant to draw the attention of the government, security agencies and Nigerians to their plight.
The people, who are predominantly fishermen, said the rivers in their community had been polluted following the construction, thereby making it impossible for them to eke out a living.
They said Julius Berger PLC should compensate them as it had compensated the people of Ogoni and Bonny, who faced a similar plight.
“Julius Berger should sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Asarama people as it did with other communities concerned with the project.”
The indigenes are also asking for a Community Liaison Officer (CLO) slot in the company, as well as employment for their people, among other demands.
They gave Julius Berger PLC seven days ultimatum to meet their demands, or else they would embark on a peaceful protest.
Reacting, the Deputy Director, Bridges and Design, Federal Ministry of Works, Ben Ekong, dismissed the community’s claims, saying the Federal Government and Julius Berger PLC had carried the people along.
Ekong, who spoke on the phone, however, said Asarama community could not be given a CLO slot “because they own no land in the entire stretch of the road construction”.
He said: “We have been talking with Asarama people since 2017, which they cannot deny.
“But because they are settlers on Bonny land, we have to talk to them through Bonny people.
“The people are asking for a CLO slot, which is not possible because they are not the direct owners of the land they occupy. The land belongs to Bonny people.”