Community demands N300m compensation from Chevron over dredging

30 September 2009   |   3:52 am  

This time, the cause, which may not be directly linked to the typical agitation for resource control, was according to sources, may not be far-fetched from the ongoing dredging exercise by the oil and gas giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited, in a community in Delta State. Indeed, the community is said to be asking the oil company a compensation of N300 million. The dredging was said to be targeted at facilitating it oil and gas exploration business and subsequently effective service delivery.

 

The project is been handled by Wilbros Nigeria Limited and Ascot Flowlines Limited, on behalf of Chevron.

According to the host community, the multi-million-naira project has brought them untold hardships and poses serious threat to their peaceful co-existence through sea encroachment, environmental degradation and pollution, among other health hazards.

Among the damages already done, the community laments, was their commercial fishing nets and four fishermen boats that were ‘deliberately destroyed’ by a vessel, HD Independent Panama, belonging to one of the contracting firms, Hydrodive Nigeria Limited.

To make things worse, the aggrieved community is also accusing Chevron of conniving with a neighbouring community to deprive them of compensation.

The complainant, Constain Community is situated in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State. The community has been a customary tenant to Ugborodo Community, an Itsekiri neighbouring community. The people of Constain Community are Ilajes and predominantly fishermen and women, traders and (canoe) transporters. Apart from the threat, they are also alleging that the dredging exercise has blocked almost all their access roads to the neighbouring communities and markets.

Although the community, through it legal counsel, Barrister Taiwo Orisabinone, admitted that it was a customary occupant on the land, but insisted that there is a law that acknowledge special compensation package to the immediate victims of such dredging exercise.

The community waterways, according to sources, had earlier been dredged by Chevron in the early 1990s, in the attempt to link a commercial pipeline that was transporting crude oil with the Atlantic Ocean. The project could not be completed then. This made the company returned to site last year.

Although the community acknowledged that the firm had paid the compensation expected at the previous dredging exercise, it said the token that was paid, went to a wrong authority, which cornered it and did not allow it to get to it intended destination.

Ugborodo, the traditional and principal owner of the Constain community is fingered in the accusation of the said diverted compensation funds, which was constitutionally meant for the immediately affected host community in the occurrence of such exercise.

But in a swift reaction on Monday, the Chairman, Ugborodo Community Trust, Thomas Ereyitomi, said in a telephone interview with The Guardian that there was no basis for the accusation by Constain Community.

According to Ereyitomi, the land on which Chevron was dredging was properly acquired from “Us” and the expected compensations have been channelled to the right authorities.” So, for Constain Community to be crying woes are of greatest surprise to me because they are not the owner of the land. They are our customary tenants. Apart from that, the dredging exercise is not taking place right inside Constain Community, as alleged, it is taking place between Constain Community boundary and another community called, Ugbigun,” he said.

However, Constain Community had already petitioned Delta State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, asking for urgent intervention on the matter.

The petition dated August 24, 2009 and signed by it solicitor, Taiwo P. Orisabinone, the community said their demand was imperative to the achievement and sustainability of Governor Uduaghan’s 3-Point Agenda.

The community threatened that “In a couple of weeks from now, the already dredged area would be linked to the Atlantic Ocean and based on the previous experience, the community have vowed to employ the whole arsenal at it disposal to stall further dredging at the site, in order to avert another disaster from sea encroachment.

Continuing, they said: “The current dredging exercise is a re-dredging exercise following the first dredging that took place in the 1990s, though some monies were paid to the community prior the dredging exercise to assuage the people’s feelings. After linking the dredged area to the sea, “Our Client,” Constain Community, suffered untold hardship consequent upon sea invasion. Sometimes in January, 2009, “Our Client,” Constain Community through these Chambers (O. Obrik. Uloho & Co. and Obrikogbo Chambers), wrote a letter to Wilbros Nigeria Limited and copied Chevron Nigeria Limited, the project owner, demanding amongst others, the stoppage of the dredging of “Our Client’s” community. Our client’s complaint include that the area being dredged serves as access road to it and the dredging activities are having serious ecological effects on the lives of the people and their means of livelihood: fishing and trading.”

In it response, Chevron Nigeria Limited, which rebuffed the demand for N300, Million compensation packaged by the community insisted that adequate compensation had been paid to the owners of the land.

Signed by Mr. Femi Odunmabo, from it’s Government and Public Affairs Department, Chevron had in February written to Constain Community lawyer and rebuffed the compensation demand.

According to a statement, which was made available to The Guardian, “Contrary to the allegation in your referenced letter, we did not trespass on Constain Community land. The land on which we are currently dredging was duly acquired from the Ugborodo community the owner of the land. The company duly compensated the Ugborodo community from whom the land was acquired for all the surface rights impacted by the acquisition. Furthermore, all our activities and operations are carried out within the acquired land and we are in no way trespassing on your “Client’s” land as alleged or any other land at all.

“As a result we regret to inform you of our inability to accede to your demand of N30 million compensation for the alleged damages, injuries and losses suffered by your clients. Kindly advice your client of our position.”

By Bankole Adeshina



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