Youths of oil-bearing communities in Imo State shut down the office of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) located along Owerri-Port Harcourt Road, Owerri during a peaceful protest.
The protesting youths blocked the main entrance gate into the commission on Monday with a casket by their witch doctor.
The youths who chanted songs bore placards with inscriptions “We need our right in NDDC”, “Return our diverted NDDC projects”, “We say no to NDDC marginalization”, “Enough of this marginalization”, “Avu Etekwuru Road is a death trap”.
Addressing journalists during the protest, the National President of Ohaji Youths, Ugorji Emmanuel, condemned the recent employment conducted by the Commission without capturing people from the oil-rich communities of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta LGA.
According to them, out of the 800 jobs, 80 slots were given to Imo State and none was allotted to the people of the oil-producing communities.
The youth expressed dissatisfaction over absence of electricity, good roads and other social amenities, adding that Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta are the oil producing areas in the state yet there is nothing to show it.
They complained about the continued disregard of the communities by the Commission which has resulted in the abandonment of a number of projects in their areas.
They urged the contractors to immediately return to sites.
The youths demanded that the projects in their oil-bearing communities should be henceforth be awarded to their zone.
They requested to know the reasons for not capturing the youth in their communities in the recent 800 projects awarded.
While demanding for immediate diversion of projects to Ohaji/Egbema and employment of youths from oil communities of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta in Imo State, they insisted in remaining in the commission’s gate until their demands were met.
The Ohaji/Egbema youths threatened to shut down oil installations in their localities if nothing was done immediately to address their demands.
Also speaking, the Egbema Youths President, Okenya Thedeaus Mario said that since his childhood till date, he had never seen any NDDC projects completed in his area.
He said that they had decided to register their position to the Commission for their action, adding that if nothing was done in that regard to address it, the youths would be left with no option than to do it their best way.
Responding, the state Director of NDDC, Engr. Tony Okanne appealed to the youths to reconsider their actions and give the commission a chance to look into their demands in bid to meet them.
Engr. Okanne said that already most of their demands are being met in their various localities, especially link roads, which are being constructed.
He explained that the link road from Avu junction in Owerri West Local Government Area to Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area has been awarded by the commission, but the problem is for the communities in these local government areas to provide borrow-pits for the contractor to speed up action.
The state director stated that the commission is tackling the issues of human capital development especially in ensuring that the youths in the oil producing communities are gainfully employed in the commission so that they will help in the developmental programmes of the Commission.
He maintained that the Managing Director of NDDC is a man who is development-oriented and loves working with the youths, at such would consider their demand for employment where the need arises.
Engr. Okanne thanked the youths for their peaceful protest and the consideration given to him as their elder statesman and assured that their plight will be conveyed to the management for prompt action.