Rivers communities demand N800b compensation from Total

The Nvakohia Rumuekpe comprising Ovelle, Imogu and Ekwutche communities in Rivers State have demanded N800billion compensation from Total E&P Nigeria Ltd for alleged devastation caused by the oil company’s operations in the area.

The chiefs, community development committees and other stakeholders at the weekend, at a news conference in conjunction with Integrity Friends for Truth and Peace Initiative (TIFPI) in Port Harcourt, vowed to report their travails to international human rights bodies.

Reading a statement on their behalf, the Executive Director, TIFPI, Livingstone Wechie, said Total operated in the area for 60 years, leaving behind environment degradation caused by oil spill and other health hazards.

He said the health hazards claimed the lives of over 600 persons in the past 10 years, adding that people continued to die from the operations of the firm.

Wechie said: “Not one indigene of Nvakaohia Rumuekpe is employed by Total. They have failed to carry out remediation, denied the community all jobs, employment and empowerment opportunities. Total E&P Nigeria Ltd has undermined the Local Content Act of Nigeria.”

He said Total should be made to do the needful by answering as well as addressing compensating for its corporate negligence and injustice, adding that the company should address the issues as soon as possible.

Said he: “There should be immediate supply of potable water to save lives at Nvakaohia-Rumuekpe, building of hospitals, medical intervention, relief materials, construction of IDP camps to accommodate and return the people from their current refugee status to avert the complete extinction of Nvakaohia clan in Rivers State.

“Total E&P should award the contract for the remediation project to mobilise contractor to site. The current management structure of Total E&P Nigeria Ltd should be reviewed to incorporate and integrate indigenes of the communities.”

The Chairman, Nvakaoha Council of Chiefs, Eze Dennis Orji, said the oil firm had rejected them and had failed to carry out remediation of their devastated environment.

Contacted, the Community Relations Manager, Total, Nnamdi Ahiamadu, said the company was aware of the demands of the communities.

He, however, said the position of Total would be made known in an official statement.

He said: “Last Monday, we lost two young men due to fighting over oil. On April 30, we lost a woman due to the absence of medical facilities, yet we have an oil company that can make this facility available.

“On October 2, 2020, when we went to the Government House, the government asked Total to give us potable water. But any time we ask Total, they will not listen to us.

“We are crying out to the world since we cannot do anything on our own. We want the world to come to our aid.”

The Community Development Committee (CDC) Chairman, London Adams, said the devastation caused by oil spill had made it impossible for the communities to engage in farming and fishing.

“Rumuekpe people are predominantly farmers and fishermen. Our mangroves, fishing ponds and water, including underground water, have been polluted by the oil spill.

“Consequently, we seek the federal and state governments help. The air we breathe has toxic materials. The only source of drinkable water is polluted. We cannot continue to die when we know we are an oil-producing community.”