House of Representatives Committee on Host Communities on Thursday warned an oil exploration company, First Exploration and Production Development Company, against obstructing the hearing of a petition by Bekikiri communities of Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State against the firm.
The committee also asked the company not to deny oil host communities of their rights and compensations due them from its exploration activities
The committee’s Chairman, Hon. Dumnamene Dekor, gave the warning at the hearing of a petition by Bekikiri communities against the company for allegedly excluding them as host communities in its area of operation.
While leading the proceedings, the chairman noted that the company mobilized members of Akassa communities, who were covered by the company’s Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) for the hearing instead of the affected communities.
However, the lawmaker pointed out that the Committee did not at any time invited Akassa communities’ people to testify before it on the petition.
The lawmaker said: “I am not aware that the committee invited Akassa community to this hearing and if the First E and P brought them here, it shows the intention of the companies to apply same divide-and-rule tactics they have always used to get away with shabby treatment of host communities; and we will not accept it.
Also, the Committee also refused to grant audience to the representatives of the uninvited communities in spite of repeated pleas by some members to the committee to “hear their side of the story since they are already here.”
Earlier, the spokesperson of the Bekikiri communities, Mr. Ndagadaga, lamented that their communities had suffered long period of neglect and the refusal to be included as host community initially by Chevron Nigeria Limited, who were the operators of the oil field and currently by First Exploration and Production Development Company.
According to him, the exploration activities of the companies have over the years affected their means of livelihood and the environment, regretting that no compensation had been paid by the companies.
Ndagadaga, said that several attempts to get the company to include Bekikiri and 17 others as host communities were rejected by the company.
The company’s Managing Director, Mr. Darlington Okoga, in his defence claimed that they inherited the current host communities from Chevron Nigeria Limited the previous operators of OML 85 and OML 83 who handed them over, noting that the oil field was only acquired in 2017.
This is even as he maintained that the company had entered into a GMOU with several host communities, all of which obligations have been fulfilled.