The Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Ltd, has been accused of neglect and refusal to carry along families who are owners of the land where crude oil was allegedly discovered recently, in negotiations regarding assessments of crops and property for the purpose of compensation before the acquisition of the land for the project.
The New Diplomat learnt that oil was discovered by the company in Evue/Igbighogho area of Oviri-Olomu community in Ughelli South Local Government Area recently following which the NPDC got into negotiations for the assessment and acquisition of the land. However, it was gathered that, rather than opening negotiations with the actual five families who are bona fide owners of the land, the Company allegedly connived with some smart members of the Olomu kingdom who, according to the five families, are not part of the ownership of the land, adding that the smart fellows increased the families to nine and worst still, the original owners were not carried along in discussions that might lead to compensation.
The five families namely, Edariese Efedjamah, Irevwiruemu, George Akanuota, Onakota and Ashe who laid claims to the ownership of the land where the oil was located therefore warned the Company against dealing with families who have no link with the land in question, adding that it should retrace its foot steps and deal with the original owners to avoid bloodshed and destruction of properties.
Addressing a press conference in Udu recently, four out of the five families who were represented at the occasion, accused the NPDC of its failure, neglect and blatant refusal to involve the five landlord families in the negotiation which culminated in the acquisition of the land.
They argued that, as the original owners of the land, the company ought to engage them in the discussion involving crops and properties assessment, compensation, contract awards, employments, Christmas gifts, scholarships and job slots that shall be associated with the project, adding that apart from the five families, there are no others who are linked to the said land.
The five landlord families also averred that sixty percent (60%) royalties should be paid to them and forty percent (40%) to the wider Oviri-Olomu community, noting that at the moment, there are some persons who claimed to be leaders of the community who have connived with the company to include additional four family names to the existing five families who are the original owners of the land.
Speaking on behalf of the five families, Comrade (Elder) A.P. Edariese stated that the land in question was owned by the five families mentioned above, adding that the additional four families which were forwarded to the company by faceless persons were not part of the ownership of the land.
They urged the company to desist from discussing with one Chief John Ewenede and his cohorts whom, they alleged, do not have the mandate of the community to represent the four families in the acquisition of their land by NPDC for the new oil location that is being developed.
“The land is not owned by the Oviri-Olomu Community. Individuals and families owned the lands. NPDC must respect the five families for decency, reasonable fairness and justice to allow peace to reign supreme if they want to do business in the land.
“They refused to hearken to these long calls and cries. NPDC is hereby placed on caution, solemnly advised and warned never to do anything with Chief John Ewenede and his cohorts.
“Chief Ewenede and others do not have the mandate of the community to represent the four families in the acquisition of their land by NPDC for the new oil location that is being developed”, Edariese emphasized.
Representatives of the five original landlords also accused NPDC of failure to consider them in the discussion involving the quantum of compensation to be paid before mobilizing to site for drilling purposes, warning that “if the company fails to exercise caution, their action may lead to serious crisis in the Community.”
“The five families have been grossly denied their rights to fair compensation for their properties destroyed on the land and totally denied all payments for loss of use of the land as well as their rights to be paid anything under the freedom to operate both at the time of preparation for drilling and now that the company has moved into the land for drilling purposes by NPDC. We are equally denied of our rights to job slots”, the families added.
They also accused the Company of conniving with some individuals to negotiate the quantum of compensation to be paid, without carrying the original owners of the land along.
“The fallout is that one Chief Friday Akporere and other individuals, including, Francis Everhe, Pastor David Okoro, Paulina Olosa Orishe sat with NPDC and negotiated the quantum of compensation to be paid to land owners at a meeting.
“NPDC officials for land department and Consultants, ESV Baridi Baridoma doing business in the name and style of Baridi Baridoma Consulting, conspired together and inserted four strange names on the location site. The consultant, NPDC officials and others shared the money provided for compensation”, Edariese alleged.
The original families’ spokes person, Edariese recalled that he and three others were allegedly held hostages recently at Wellington hotel in Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area by an NPDC Consultant, adding that he was forced to collect the sum of one million, five hundred thousand naira on behalf of his family by the consultant.
“He threatened that if I love myself, I should collect the money and that if the Lords in Oviri-Olomu Community know he is dealing with me, he will be in trouble. I should accept the money. I accepted the money under duress. I had to sign for the cheque. He said my family was fortunate because we got the larger sum and others got peanuts”, he further alleged.
While corroborating Edariese’s allegation, a representative of the George Akanuota family Mr. Shedrack Akanuota, said that “only five families owned the land wherein NPDC is currently carrying out drilling works at the moment, adding that they are not nine as was mentioned and forwarded to the company by some faceless persons.”
Those present at the press conference include, Comrade (Elder) A P. Edariese, Paul Edariese, Pius Edariese – all of the Edariese family; David Irhoremu from Irhoremu family, Obakpororo Ashe and Kingsley Ashe – both grand children of the Ashe family and Shedrack Akanuota from the George Akanuota family in Oviri-Olomu Community of Ughelli South Local Government Area.
Attempts by our correspondent to get the response of officials of NPDC have not been successful. Also, the leadership of the Oviri-Olomu Community could not be reached to respond to the allegations of the five families.