Business activities at the head office of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited (NPDC) in Benin City were on Monday disrupted as a result of the protest by residents of the host communities.
The inhabitants from over 50 communities in the State, claimed that the firm disregarded the local content rights under the Petroleum Industry Act, 2022, hence they decided to barricade the office, which led to the obstruction of movements of staff into the company’s premises.
The protesters, who besieged the company’s entrance gate sited on Airport road in the early hours of Monday, carried placards with various inscriptions such as “NPDC, enough is enough, PIB law must be adhered to strictly, NPDC, our protest is our right”.
Aggrieved with the purported neglect by the NPDC, the protesters identified tarring of roads, and school renovations as some of the areas being ignored by the company, and further expressed their grievances by slaughtering a cow at the entrance gate and used it to prepare meals.
One of the protesters, Ovbokhan Igbinovia, said the communities have written several letters to the company and they are yet to receive any response.
“We are 52 communities. The reason why we are here is because of NPDC. We are happy that a company like this is situated here in Iyekogba village but we are not also happy because we are not working there; our youths, our children are not being employed.
“Series of letters had been written to them since last year and they have not responded. So, the youths and elders of the communities have deemed it fit to possess our rights with a peaceful demonstration for them to recognise us that we are the indigenes of the community where they are residing presently.
“If you check across the roads, you will see that those roads have not been tarred, in where this project is. If you check the schools, none of them is being renovated. NPDC must empower and engage the youths of great Benin kingdom.
“The contract of maintenance of NPDC office cannot be given to a foreigner in Edo land and how long will NPDC and government disregard the sensitivity of Edo youths? Awarding the maintenance contract of NPDC headquarters office in Benin to another indigene is a total disregard of our local content rights under the Petroleum Industry Act 2021,” he claimed.
Responding to the firm, Nowe Dumbra, from the community relations department, said the management will invite them as soon as possible to address the host communities’ grievances.
“We came in this morning and we met these peaceful protesters already at the gate. In this instance, even if the top management were to come in, how would they have come in? It is not possible, however, I have reached out to my manager because truly the protesters are community-based and actually it should be handled by the community relations department.
“I have spoken to my manager, and he has told me to appeal to them, get the list of their grievances, present it to the top management of NPDC and they will be invited for a meeting immediately with their leaders so that they can discuss”, he said.