Protesters today, June 12, 2014 stopped the operations of workers at the Rubber Estates Nigeria Ltd (RENL), Utagba-Uno, alleging insensitivity of the company to the plight of the host community.
The protesters which included the oldest men and women, titled chiefs and the youths from the seven quarters of Utagba-Uno stormed the premises of the company as early as 5.30 am and said work should stop in the company because the management of the company failed to address issues raised by the Utagba-Uno community, Ndokwa West Local Government of Delta State over the years.
Prof. Andrew Orjieh who who read the community’s protest letter said nobody should work to show the seriousness of the grievances of the community against the oil company.
“There should be no work today, we informed you about our coming but, your head office chose to ignore us and sent a junior officer to receive us,” he said, adding, “we are not here to pally, this community is peaceful but, not docile, we have written several letters but your managing director is hiding, at the right time, we will ferret him out.”
According to Prof. Orjieh, the RENL refused to deal with members of the Community’s Board of Trustees set up by the Onotu-Ukus of the seven quarters of Utagba-Uno in November, 2013.
“RENL has since 2013, neglected, and or refused to relate with the said new Board of Trustees of 14 members and this was a big shock to Utagba-Uno community because RENL and its predecessors who have been in Utagba-Uno for over 40 years, know that the seven Onotu-Ukus of the Seven quarters of Utagba-Uno are the altar-ego of Utagba-Uno Community and that they have presented the new Board of 14 member Trustees to RENL on 27th November 2013 to take charge of all aspects of community relations with RENL,” Prof. Orjie said, adding, “each Onotu-Uku is the Administrative head of his quarter.”
He reiterated, “Utagba-Uno community had exercised enough patience because it had always considered discretion as a better part of valour, but, there is mounting tension and anxiety among youths and elders of the community over RENL’s neglect of the community and if RENL continues to show unwillingness in dealing with the duly appointed representatives of the community (Trustees), Utagba-Uno may consider taking appropriate steps to reclaim its land.”
“RENL should exercise wisdom and start to relate with Utagba-Uno through the 14 member and we hope RENL will start doing the right thing henceforward by relating with the Community’s authorized representatives as it is in the best interest of all stakeholders,” the community said in the address signed by Chief G.I. Ilide, the Onotu-Uku of Ikilibi quarters on behalf of the seven Onotu-Ukus of the seven quarters of Utagba-Uno; Hon. Sir James Izah, Chairman, Utagba-Uno Progress Forum; Chief Mathias Osogbue, Chairman, Community Development Council, Utagba-Uno; Prof. Andrew Ojie, Chairman, Community Relations (RENL and Utagba-Uno); and Mr Augustine Okonye, Secretary, Community Relations (RENL and Utagba-Uno).
The protesters also warned that one Mr Amadin G.A. should not be allowed into the company’s premises as he has misdirected the management of the company in dealing with the community.
Responding on behalf of the RENL, the Agric Manager of the company, Mr Ifeanyi Onumegbu commended Utagba-Uno community for their peaceful disposition and maturity in handling issues assuring their their grievances will be properly addressed by the rubber company.