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Niger Delta communities protest against alleged unpaid N7 billion royalties

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Indigenes of oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta yesterday in Abuja protested against an alleged non-payment of a N6.9 billion rent by a major oil company.

They threatened to vandalise the assets of multinational in the area if the alleged indebtedness was not defrayed in two weeks.

Brandishing placards and banners with various inscriptions, the protesters vowed to go after the company’s facilities if the resolution of the Senate was not honoured within the deadline.

A chief from Opolo community of Bayelsa State, Odede Hezekiah, while addressing reporters, noted that they chose this peaceful path to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari and other Nigerians to the development else they could have just mobilised and begin to destroy the installations belonging to the oil firm.

“We are giving them just two weeks to respect the Senate resolution. If they don’t, anything can happen. We give the period to pay the amount covering between 2014 and 2023.

“Let them pay the whole money they are owing the whole Niger Delta communities. That is why we are here. Else, something will happen to their facilities.

“We just want President Buhari to hear everything before we take action,” he warned.Also speaking, Mr. Ayigba Shedrack, who identified himself as a representative of Azagbene community in the same oil-rich state, clarified: “ The Senate passed a resolution directing that they should pay N600,000 per hectare of land per annum to every host community in the Niger Delta.

“But as I am talking to you now, they paid us N200,000 unlike what they paid Forcados, Bonny and others in Port Harcourt.”

“As we speak, our people are agitated and if we go back now, anything can happen.”He maintained that unless they get N600,000 per hectare yearly in line with the decision of the upper legislative chamber, his people could not guarantee industrial harmony.

The Senate had in April this year directed the Dutch oil major to respect its earlier resolution which mandated it to pay N6,936,899,900 to some host communities in the oil-rich region.A firm, Bekele Jones and Associates, had petitioned the red chamber, alleging non-payment of the accumulated rentals and expired leases.

It specifically decried the arrears for the Port Harcourt Oloibiri pipeline, the Oloibiri well and the entire Utapate/Akwa Ibom fields.

On receipt of the petition, the Senate leadership through the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly conveyed its position to the oil firm.

The letter, dated March 4, 2019 and signed by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori, was addressed separately to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mustapha Boss, and the managing director of the oil company.

The Senate resolved that the firm should pay a uniform rate of N600,000 per hectare of land as rent yearly for all losses of surface rights from 2014.

The upper chamber also directed the multinational to “cancel all long term leases of 99 years already imposed on landowners and comply with the provisions of the Oil Pipeline Act which stipulate a term of 20 years only.”

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