Fifteen riverine communities in Egbema Kingdom, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, have threatened to shut down operations at the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 40 in Ogbeti-Okun oil field over non-recognition of their communities by the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC)/ELCREST Joint Venture.

The communities staged a peaceful protest on Sunday to express their grievances against the oil firms.

They carried placards with various inscriptions, such as: “NPDC, stop your operation”; “NPDC, stop work,” among others.

The protesters said they would not leave the area and that no vessel would move out of the base until their demands were met.

Representatives of the communities, Mr. Joe Bokson and Mr. Senior Kiri, said in the 33 years of oil exploration in the Ogbeti-Okun oil field, the communities had not benefited anything from the various operators.

They claimed that when NPDC and ELCREST began operations in the oil field in 2018, the communities protested alleged injustice they had suffered in the hands of their predecessors and made a case for them to be recognised as host communities.

The protesters added that a meeting which followed the protest was held at Warri North Local Government Area’s secretariat in Koko.

The communities claimed that the management agreed to pay them benefits and entitlements.

But they claimed that NPDC/ELCREST JV did not live up to their promise.

The 15 coastal communities include Asisabobutie, Ubebrakui, Agbuwagha, Erekoughan, Okofagbene, Ojudougbene, Idebanegbene, Ologbamkan, Azama, Oyangbene, Adagbrasa, Asantuwagbene, Oborogbene, and Emelebiri.

A leader of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Shagari Sobo, explained that after paying for two months, the company abandoned the agreement it reached with the host communities.

Shagari urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to prevail on the management of the oil firm to recognise the host communities, like their Itsekiri neighbours.

Also, the eldest man and woman leader in the affected communities, Chief Sunday Eyenmi and Mrs. Eunice Momo, decried the destruction of aquatic lives, their major means of livelihood, following exploitation activities in the area.

A representative of the NPDC/ELCREST, Mr. Prince Orji, who addressed the protesters, praised them for their peaceful disposition.

He promised to communicate their demands to the management.