[TR News] Rivers community, oil firm disagree over alleged soldiers’ invasion

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Indigenes of Odiemerenyi community in Ahoada East LGA of Rivers State and Total Exploration and Production Nigeria have disagreed over an oil spill in the area and the alleged invasion of the area by soldiers.

 The oil spill, which occurred in August, was said to have come from OML 58 owned by Total E and P Nigeria.

 It was gathered that farmlands and aquatic lives were destroyed by the spill, even as the Amashell stream, the community’s source of drinking water, had also been polluted.

But while the community insisted that six houses were set ablaze by soldiers, the oil company said nothing of such happened.

 One of the youth leaders in the area, Mr. George Agbesor, expressed sadness over the development and added that residents of the community were currently living in fear as a result of an encounter with some soldiers attached to the oil firm.

 Agbesor, who spoke on behalf of the President of Odimerenyi community, Mr. Goodluck Okpasa, said, “Immediately I heard about the spills, I took action by calling Total’s manager on community affairs and he told me that the company was already discussing with the youth president and the CDC.

“Then I called the youth president and he told me it was not true and that he and the CDC chairman were even waiting to hear from Total.

 “Total came to the community and was stopped by the youths from going to the spill site because the community told them to follow due process. They cannot just come into a community without informing the community on what they want to do.”

  In his remark, a former councillor for Ward 11, Ahoada East LGA, Mr. Henry Meshach, noted that rather than meet with the community heads, armed soldiers attached to Total shot at protesting youths in the community.

 He disclosed that at least, six houses were burnt down by the soldiers, including two of them belonging to two ageing widows.

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 Mishack identified the widows as Mrs. Susanna Anwunanya and Mrs. Letem, saying, “We are pained that this kind of thing is happening at this point in time.”

 Reacting, the oil firm denied claims by Odiemerenyi community that armed soldiers attached to its staff attacked protesting youths and burnt down houses in the area.

TEPNG’s Deputy General Manager, Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Charles Ogan, in a statement made available to Southern City News, explained that the company had been informed about an incident suspected to be a leak in the area.

 Ogan said due procedure was followed by the company in ensuring that the situation was remedied, adding that Total met with community representatives in a bid to organise a joint investigation visit to the site of the suspected leak.

 “On Thursday 18th August 2016, TEPNG received information from a pipeline surveillance contractor that there was a suspected leak on the crude export line from Obagi to Rumuekpe at Odiemerenyi.

“On Saturday 20th August 2016, TEPNG met with the community representatives to organise a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) to the site of the suspected leak.

 “After obtaining the full agreement of the community, the Joint Investigation Visit was organised to the site of the suspected leak on Thursday 25th August, 2016, in accordance with industry best practices and fully abiding by Nigerian laws and regulation.

 “As the Joint Investigation Team was getting close to the location of the incident, the convoy was ambushed by unidentified people with gunfire.

“The inspection visit was immediately aborted, and TEPNG Team and the representatives of regulatory agencies were safely taken from the area,” Ogan said.

He pointed out that the oil firm was committed to working closely with its host communities as part of its corporate social responsibility policy and respect for human rights.

The statement, however, promised that Total would liaise with relevant authorities to obtain clarifications on the reported incidents.

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