Four oil and gas bearing communities in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State have issued a 7-day ultimatum to Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, to commence negotiations for the payment of compensations to them or vacate the communities.
The communities, namely, Oben, Iguelaba, Ikobi and Obazogbe-nugu, also demanded that the oil exploration company commence immediately, a joint assessment and evaluation that would be credible to both the company and the people.
Speaking on behalf of the communities at a community town hall, Mr. West Uyigue Ogiemwonyi, said Oben is reported to have had the largest gas reserve in West Africa with Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc as the operator of the field but regrettably, its host communities are highly neglected by both the exploration company, State and Federal Governments.
Ogiemwonyi said the environment had been degraded and devastated as a result of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities, especially gas flaring which he said had affected their crops and led to acid rains, extreme weather conditions.
He said these negative impact informed them to engage an environmental consultant to carry out post environmental evaluation, costing for compensation, adding that the report had since been handed over to the company for its study, consideration and possibly open for negotiations for payment of compensation but the company failed to meet up with its responsibilities.
Ogiemwonyi said consequent upon its company’s refusal to pay compensation to the host communities, the company should be prepared to leave the communities within seven days or face their wrath.
He said the company should live up to its responsibilities of providing infrastructure, adequate employment, training and engaging the people of the host communities as its permanent staff.
The spokesman lamented that their communities that are contributing so much to the State and Federal governments have been completely abandoned by successive governments at all levels, stressing that there is nothing to indicate the presence of both governments in the various communities.
“There is no single federal government presence in Oben. The only State government’s presence, which is the primary and secondary schools, are in very deplorable states, with dilapidated classroom blocks.
“There are no desks and chairs for the students to sit to learn, no toilet facilities, no water, no science laboratory, no library. In fact, the primary school can best be described as Akara school of those days and the secondary school as an over glorified primary school,” Ogiemwonyi said.
He also calls on the government to wade into the activities of herdsmen in the communities as they now live in perpetual fear.
Earlier, the Onogie of Oben Community, HRH Odoligie Ogiemwonyi, said he was in support of the decision reached by his subjects, adding that governments at both levels should come to their rescue to bring about development to the various host communities in Orhionmwon.