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Delta Community, Chevron Disagree Over Ownership Of Land Housing Oil Well-Head Gutted By Fire

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By Eseoghene Emuke

The people of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community in Warri North council area of Delta state and Chevron Nigeria Limited have disagreed over the ownership of the land where a Chevron oil well head has been on a raging fire.

CNL had in a statement earlier signed by its General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Esimaje Brikinn said the ranging fire took place at Ojumole Well 1 in Ondo State as against the claim by Polobubo.

Brikinn claimed that, “The current fire incident occurred at the NNPC/CNL JV’s Ojumole Well 1 in Ondo State. This has always been the name of the well and the name was not  changed. We have been in engagement with all relevant stakeholders, including communities, government of Ondo State and regulatory agencies on the fire incident.

“The Joint Investigation Visit to the site of the incident on Saturday April 20, 2019, by a team made up of regulatory agencies, community stakeholders (including representatives of Tsekelewu community) and CNL, determined that the fire was caused by unidentified third-parties who interfered with the facility.”

However, the community faulted the claims by Chevron, vowing to resist alleged plots to cede parts of their land to their Ilaje neighbours in Ondo state.

Speaking at a peace meeting convoked by the Delta State Government with representatives of the community and CNL at Government House, Annex, Warri on Tuesday, the community alleged the land belonged to Polobubo community in Warri as against the position of oil company.

The community was represented by the hierarchy of the Polobubo (Tsekelewu) National Council (PNC) , including National President, Mr. Ebilate Mac-Yoroki; the General Secretary, Mr. Midwest Kukuru; former President, Mr. Edmund Tiemo; one of the clan heads of Egbema, Chief Mathew E. O. Tiemo; Mr. Dickson Asoki, among others.

While Chevron’s management was also represented at the meeting, which held at the Delta State Government House (Annex), Warri, by Mr. Tony Emegere and Mr. Happy Appai, both of the Policy Government and Public Affairs (PGPA) Department.

The President of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) National Council (PNC), Mac-Yoroki expressed disappointment at an attempt to cede their land to Ondo State, urging the Delta state government to step in and defend the position of its people by prevailing on the company to take steps remedy every wrong done to the community.

He told Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who was represented by the State Commissioner for Justice, Mr Peter Mrakpor that, “The oil multinational had continued feeding the mass media and other agencies that the incident occurred in Ondo state. 

“This is unacceptable and we will not succumb to such reckless and unsubstantiated claims.

“Your Excellency sir, the aspiration of Ondo state government to have our community under its control could be traced back to the mid-70s, resulting in the boundary disputes between Delta and Ondo states, which final decisions were made in favour of Delta state. 

“This is a reenactment of the past, of which we are calling on Your Excellency to passionately wade into it, as a matter of urgency to checkmate the antics of the Ondo state government.”

“It will interest Your Excellency to note that your predecessors, be they military or democratically elected governments, fought relentlessly to maintain the status quo ante. On our part, it has not been without a price being paid for this struggle. Many of our patriots are martyred for this cause. We are still resolute to this day.

“Our governor, we are not safe at this point in time when our health and environment are compromised by spontaneous fire incidents, coupled with our land being threatened. The entire area here in question is christened Tsekelewu field in NNPC’s data base. See the federal oil map, there is nothing like Ojumole Oil Field”, Mac-Yoroki said. 

He, however, pleaded with Governor Okowa to prevail on Chevron to immediately end the raging inferno on the facility, evaluate the level of health and environmental damage the fire had done to the community and commence immediate remediation in the area.

However, the leader of the Chevron delegation at the meeting, Mr. Emegere said the company, in a bid not to ignite communal crisis between the Ijaw of Polobubo in Delta state and Ilaje of Ondo state had been playing safe, dealing with both sides equally.

He observed that it would not be the duty of Chevron to determine who owned the land on which the facility is located.  

The representative of the governor to the meeting, Mr. Mrakpor had tried to persuade the representatives of the company to see to it that immediate measures were taken to ease the negative effect of the fire on the environment and the health of the people. 

He, however, said that he would take the message back to the governor for appropriate actions, adding further that the state government would soon visit the site of the fire incident and the disputed location.

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