Day Ovade-Oghara Indigenes Grounded Pan Ocean Operations | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Niger Delta

Day Ovade-Oghara Indigenes Grounded Pan Ocean Operations

Posted: May 4, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sam Akadoro  Sapele

Protesters in their thousands from Ovade community in the Ethiope West Local Government area of Delta State made up of the elders, women, youths, old and young armed with placards and fresh leaves, including caskets, at the weekend grounded the operations of Pan Ocean Oil Corporation Nigeria Limited which began in the area since 1976.

The protesters at the Pan Ocean company premises.

The protesters at the Pan Ocean company premises.

The protesting indigenes of the community stormed the company in the early hours of Thursday, April 30, 2015 with placards such as: ‘Pan Ocean has destroyed our farm land’; ‘No to Pan Ocean modern day slavery’; ‘We need increment, we are tired of N28,500 per month’; ‘Slavery must end forty years of Pan Ocean marginalisation to Ovade Community’; ‘Contractors must go, we are tired of causualisation for 40 years’; ‘Pan Ocean Must leave our land’; among others.

The protesters called on the management of the company to reverse what they termed 40 years of marginalisation, oppression suppression and deprivation of Ovade community.

The Chairman of Ovade Community, Mr. Hilter Igbakpa, the Public Relations Officer, Chief Stanley Sagboje, including an elderly woman in the community, Mrs. Influence Cover, who spoke to journalists during the protest, explained that they have earlier issued an ultimatum dated February 2, 2015 to the management of Pan Ocean Oil Corporation in respect of certain demands which have long elapsed.

They named the demands to include award of contract for catering and house keeping services to Ovade indigenes; commencement of use of draft GMOU as working document between Ovade community and Pan Ocean with effect from January 1, 2015; that all staff of Ovade extraction irrespective of status shall be entitled to all rights, benefits and privileges obtainable in Pan Ocean and in the Oil and Gas Industry; and stoppage of casual and outsourcing of Ovade indigenes and staffing of same.

They maintained that since the management of the company has made no attempt to address their demands and since negotiation has broken down, they have no more confidence in the company to resolve the disputes among themselves, decrying the many years of under development of the community despite the huge resources they (Pan Ocean) are making from the oil exploration in their community.

Igbakpa added that the company has equally gone further by threatening them with the use of the military to rout the entire community if they dare launch out any protest that will draw the attention of their headquarters, as they have already noticed the presence of the military in the community since the ultimatum was given, making them to be currently under siege at the instance of the management of Pan Ocean.

He also explained that the company which began its operations in August 1976 at the Ovade Ogharefe field of  OML 98, employed over 500 people, of which more than 95 per cent are Nigerians and that no indigenes of Ovade community is in the 95 per cent quota of Nigerians at senior and management levels except for hewers of woods in the company not withstanding that they have the flow station, gas plant fertilities, including 23 oil wells locations and network of pipelines that cris-cross the entire community land.

He remarked that prior to the discovery of oil wells in the community they have lived well among themselves cultivating all kinds of farm produce, hunting, fishing in abundance, but that after 40 years of the company’s existence, the people are now in a pitiable state, as animals have taken flight from their streams and rivers as a result of oil pollution, including perennial crops that have all dried off and fertility of the land no more for subsistence farming with no other meaningful sustainable livelihood.

They added that the discrimination of Pan Ocean against Ovade indigenes is so intense to such extent that the staff in similar outsourcing categories of other extraction are being  paid salaries far higher than their people, as Ovade indigenes have been sidelined since the year 2002 following Pan Ocean’s annual confirmation exercises wherein casual/contract employees who retired were not replaced from the community but from other extractions in a systematic decimation of their people in Pan Ocean management.

The Ovade community therefore put on notice to the federal and state governments and other relevant agencies, security agencies, the civil society and Nigerians of good conscience of Pan Ocean management and its violation of their peoples’ fundamental rights, explaining that as a community they have resolved to take their destiny in their hands and no amount of arm twisting, intimidation, harassment and size of army of occupation can shake their resolve.  They said they are advising the management of Pan Ocean to toe the path of peace and pursue amicable settle of the issues in dispute soonest, to assuage frayed nerves and to the satisfaction of all and that the protest will continue till their demands were met.

Meanwhile, the Community Relations Department Officer of Pan Ocean Company Limited, Mr. Olabanji, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said they are already in close dialogue with Ovade community executive officers and that in the shortest possible time they will arrive at an amicable solution that will be beneficial to all the parties involved.