Edo State youths have staged a blockade at the entrance of Headquarters of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in Benin the Edo State Capital
The office located along Airport Road, Benin City, was taken aback by aggrieved protesters from fifty-two communities in the state over alleged marginalisation. Operating under the aegis of Concerned Edo Youths, the gathering barricaded the NPDC entrance gate in the early hours of Monday morning, demanding that their communities and youths benefit from the financial wherewithal and contracts of the company.
Amongst the vociferous crowd were placards with inscriptions, ‘NPDC, enough is enough’, ‘PIB law must be adhered to strictly’, and ‘NPDC, our protest is our right’. The protesting youths also took things a step further by making arrangements for an open feast, to suggest their stance is here to stay. A cow was slaughtered at the scene, as two big pots were used to prepare two bags of rice for the crowd.
Speaking on the incident, head of a community in Okhoromi, Oredo local government area of the state, Mr Ovbokhan Igbinovia, echoed the demands of Edo State youths on the day, while acknowledging that they were glad the company was sited in the state.
He then spoke on the disappointment felt by the host communities, who have not felt the impact of the company; despite several letters written to NPDC.
‘We are 52 communities. The reason why we are here is because of NPDC insensitivity. We are happy that a company like this is situated in Iyekogba Village but we are sad that our people cannot get employment there. Our youths are not being employed. Letters have been written to them since last year but they failed to respond. So, the youths and elders of the communities have deemed it fit to ask for our right with peaceful demonstration as indigenes of the communities where they operate.
‘If you check across the roads, you will see that those roads have not been tarred and none of the schools is being renovated,’ Mr Ovbokhan explained.
Mr Sylvester Eweka, a leader of another community, said the situation is intolerable, and claimed they could plead their cause to the Oba of Benin to revoke land rights given to the NPDC.
‘They know what they call the local contents. It is as if they are looking at the Binis as second class citizens which they are not.
‘The only clearing of grass which should have been given to the host communities, was given to a company in Kaduna. It doesn’t speak well at all.
‘We are asking the management to withdraw that contract immediately and give it back to the host communities.
‘They said this land was given freely to the company by the Oba of Benin and do you know why he did that? So that his people can get jobs,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Nowe Dumbra from the Community Relations Department of NPDC, revealed that an invite will be put out by the management to ensure the request of these communities are attended to.
‘We came in this morning and we met these peaceful protesters already at the gate. The top management staff cannot come in now and I have reached out to my manager because truly the protesters are from the community and actually it should be handled by the Community Relations Department.
‘And my manager, I have spoken with one of their leaders and he has told me to appeal to them, get the list of their grievances, present it to the top management of NPDC and they will be invited for a meeting immediately with their leaders so that they can discuss,’ he said.
The protest at the entrance of the NPDC office comes days after Edo youths, Chiefs and members of the royal family called on the state government to stop the purported sales of ancestral lands.
The Protest has however entered the second day, as the aggrieved youths set up canopies at the entrance of the NPDC Headquarters due to heavy downpour