Over 1,000 persons from Edo communities in Esit Eket, Akwa Ibom, occupied the entrance to the Central Gas Processing Facility under construction by Septa Energy to press home their complaints of discriminatory labour practices against indigenes of the area.
They disrupted construction activities, Thursday, at the Uquo Marginal oil fields over violations of existing agreements. The protesters, carrying placards, were comprised of women, youths and elders from the Edo community. Singing and drumming, they urged the oil firm to honor its obligations to community development.
The women took over the gates and set up their cooking pots while others carried a symbolic cassava stick depicting poor yield as a result of oil and gas exploration and production.
Representatives of the community told Sahara Reporters they were protesting the company’s non compliance with a Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the operators of the marginal oil field with them.
Mrs Grace Akpata, an organizer, said that the women were disappointed that officials of Septa Energy declined to honour its promises to them at a meeting in December 2011.
“We are disappointed by the gross insensitivity of Septa Energy and its project contractors. We are not asking for something out of place, we are simply demanding an implementation of an existing MOU with this community.
“It is unfortunate that an organisation can renege on honouring its social obligations to its host communities,” Akpata said
Sahara Reporter sighted teams of armed security men deployed to frighten and intimidate those in the area.
Henry Ekong, Akwa Ibom Chapter Chairman of Association of Erectors, Riggers and Scaffolders of Nigeria said that the association opposed the violation of the operational area quota.
“I am part of the Riggers, erectors and scaffolders of Nigeria. We are a trade union today gathered here in front of the central processing facility to express our grievances over what the companies are doing to the trade union.
“They are even bringing foreigners to do the jobs reserved for Nigerians under the Labour Act and in total violation of expatriate quotas.
“The MOU stipulated that our youths should partake fully up to 60 to 70 per cent of this project in the skilled and semi skilled categories of manpower but that is not happening.
“And today we have discovered that the youths are not represented up to 20 percent. We are not happy, we need a redress, we need a head count of all workers in the CPF, so that we know exactly who has been cleared by the community and who has not been cleared,” Ekong stated
Officials of ALCON, the construction firm handling the project could not be reached for comments as they were said to have withdrawn from the project site.
Construction Manager of ALCON, Mr Flavio Grosso could not be reached as he switched off his mobile phone.
Chief Umoh Udobia, Chairman of Uquo Marginal Field Development Board said that officials of Septa Energy had prevailed on him to appeal to the crowd to maintain the peace as Management of the firm has agreed to meet with community representatives at a hotel in Eket.