Many women from oil-producing communities in Bayelsa State on Friday protested at the state office of the Niger Delta Development Commission in Yenagoa, against alleged neglect and underdevelopment of their oil impacted communities by the commission.
The protesters, who came mainly from the hinterland communities, stormed the state liaison office of the commission on Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, bearing placards with several inscriptions to air their grievances and demands.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘NDDC intervene to alleviate poverty, suffering from ecological disaster,’ ‘NDDC come to our aid, our means of livelihood are destroyed,’ ‘We are tired of the man-made poverty in our lands,’ ‘NDDC, release funds issued by FG for devastated oil communities,’ ‘Toxic chemicals and dynamite are devastating our lands,’ ‘NDDC come and empower our women,’ among others.
The angry women, mainly from three local government areas of Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Brass, marched peacefully from the Ekeki area of Yenagoa to Yenizuegene area, where the NDDC office is located.
The protest caused heavy traffic on the Mbiama-Yenagoa road for over two hours with commercial tricycle operators and motorists making a detour to escape from the traffic.
Mrs Iniyeke Alfred, who led the protesters, from Azagbene community in Ekeremor LGA, lamented that the host communities had been suffering ecological problems occasioned by oil exploration activities and had been neglected by the Federal Government.
She said they had been abandoned for long with nothing to show for the volumes of oil explored from their communities.
She urged the affected communities to align with the request of the forum of traditional rulers in the state to demand N20bn compensation for the environmental and ecological damage done to their communities.
Alfred said, “The Federal Government will send multinational oil companies to our communities to drill crude oil. They then pay taxes to the Federal Government but the NDDC set up to develop the oil producing communities have diverted the funds to develop non-oil producing areas.
“In our communities, we have flow stations, oil wells and gas pipelines, but our rivers are polluted, no potable water, good roads, no scholarship for our children and empowerment for our women. These are some of the reasons we are here from different communities to demand our rights from the NDDC.”
She said with the protest, they registered their grievances to the NDDC and that if after sometime, the intervention agency failed to meet their demands, they would shut down the operations of the agency in the state.
Another woman from the Eleni community, Sophia Ogunu, said they protested because of the suffering of their people, adding that recent pollution from oil activities destroyed their fishes and impacted negatively on their flora and fauna.
Addressing the protesters, the Principal Manager, NDDC, Bayelsa Office, Mr Diete Famonyo, commended the women for their peaceful disposition.
He described their demands as legitimate, saying as a liaison office, they would collate their demands and forward the same to the managing director at the commission’s headquarters.
He added that as a liaison office, there was little or nothing they could do but to refer their grievances to the headquarters.