Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
Hundreds of women from oil-producing communities in Bayelsa State on Friday shut down the state office of the Niger Delta Development Commission over alleged neglect and underdevelopment of their oil impacted communities by the commission.
The protesting women who came mainly from the hinterland communities stormed the state liaison office of the commission on Melford Okilo Road brandishing placards with several inscriptions to ventilate 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 other demands.
The protesting women, mainly from three local government areas of Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor, and Brass, demonstrated peacefully from Ekeki area of Yenagoa to Yenizuegene area, trekking about two kilometers.
The protest caused a gridlock on the ever-busy Melford Okilo Expressway for over two hours with commercial tricycle operators and motorists making a detour to escape from the traffic jam.
Spokeswoman and one of the leaders of the protesting women, Mrs. Iniyeke Alfred, 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 for a long time been abandoned with nothing to show for the volumes of oil got from their communities.
She, therefore, said the affected communities aligned 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 no 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 had come to register their grievances to the NDDC and that if after some time, the intervention agency failed to meet their demands, they would shut down the operations of the agency in the state.
Another protested from Eleni community, Sophia Ogunu, said they embarked on the protest because of the suffering of their people, saying that recently, pollution from oil activities destroyed all their fishes and impacted negatively on their Fiona and fauna.
She said it was regrettable that the communities where the majority of the resources of the country is got were left to suffer unduly and that the agency supposed to develop the areas is not doing well enough.
Addressing the protesting women, 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 headquarters.
He added that as a liaison office, there was little or nothing they could do but to refer their grievances to the headquarters.