Ondo bitumen host communities kick against exploitation

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• Accuse firm of shoddy deals, neglect of MoU, EIA
• Don’t scare investors away, state govt warns

Bitumen host communities in Irele Local Council of Ondo State have kicked against the exploitation of the natural resources found in that part of the state by South-West Bitumen Nigeria Limited (SBNL).

The host communities, under the aegis of Irele Progressive Union (IPU), at a meeting, yesterday, in Irele, the headquarters of Irele Local Council, said that all protocols guiding bitumen exploitation must be observed.

They also insisted that the exploitation company must strictly observe the rights of host communities before they would allow it commence operation.

The IPU President, Dr. Olagoke Akinwumi, disclosed that the council hosts over 21.37 billion barrels out of the total 42.74 billion barrels spread across the host communities and councils namely Ese-Odo and Okitipupa.

Akinwumi noted that the recent mobilisation of equipment to site at Lamudifa community necessitated the urgent protest by the people to stop the commencement of bitumen exploitation in the state.

He, alongside other community leaders, faulted SBNL for commencing exploitation without any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and failure to address issues raised in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

ALSO, Chairman and former Accountant-General of the Federation, Dr. Kayode Naiyeju (OON), said that the exploitation would have adverse effects on their farmlands, health and general well-being.

According to him, the primary interest of any company is to maximise profit while the economic or other benefits to the host communities are often treated with levity.

The finance expert, who urged SBNL to engage the communities directly rather than individuals, reiterated that it is “imperative for necessary arrangements to be put in place before any form of exploitation is carried out.”

MEANWHILE, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Development and Investment, Mr. Boye Oyewumi, has said the protest was borne out of communication gaps between the people and the investors.

Oyewumi, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA), the supervisory agency, warned that the agitation might drive the investors away from the business.

He disclosed that the company had embarked on engagement with the critical stakeholders, adding that the EIA was the basis for the licence issued by the Federal Government.

“There is a communication gap somewhere. They have done Environmental Impact Assessment, of course, if not, how will they get licence?” he said.

The ONDIPA boss assured that the government and its agency handling the project would not neglect the interest and well-being of the host communities.

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