Following the wanton destruction of properties, alleged brutalisation of residents and scuffle with security agencies on Tuesday night, December 1, 2020, palpable tension has since on Wednesday enveloped the ever busy Umuseti community in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State.
When our correspondent visited the oil-rich community, residents were seen in clusters discussion the unfortunate development in hush tones as soldiers were seen patrolling the deserted streets to enforce the partial curfew imposed by Captain AM Magana of 222 Battalion, who apprehended the youth leader, Felix Izah, alleged to be the mastermind of the mayhem that was unleashed in the community.
This came barely hours after the youth leader was released from detention for the breaching of Pillar Oil flowstation in the locality.
According to a reliable community guide and source, who pleaded anonymity, “Trouble started minutes after Felix Izah, immediate past youth President, and two others were released from detention following their arrest for their involvement in the lockdown and breach of Pillar Oil Limited flow station located in the community.
“Hell was soon let loose on their arrival in community as he led over 40 gun, machete and club-wielding youths that poured into the street and went on to destroy buildings, manhandled their perceived enemies, robbed others and almost killed a 104 years old woman, two little children and a 75 years old pensioner who received the beating of his life, before they set his wife’s shed containing petrol and engine oil in fire. This continued all night before the army came in as they overpowered the police who was seen looking helpless in the face of superior fire.”
He also added that, “The youth President began the onslaught from Mrs. Ishioma Odili’s shop where he personally kicked out a table where some respected young professionals were cooling off after the day’s work. He used one of the chairs to smash on them, destroying their phones. They have to scamper for life and drove away from Umuseti. They’re not natives or indigenes of Umuseti and do not even reside there. Their offense was going to relax at a beer spot at Umuseti. That’s where he started his rampage yesterday (Tuesday)”.
Aside from 104 years old Ofashi Beatrice Akpe, others who had their properties destroyed were High Chief Emmanuel Akpe, Comrade Nnamdi Odibi, Mr. Ogbe Eloke, as well as those Comrade Tom Ossai, Chief Tom Nkweshi, Chief Charles Akpe, Mr. Joe Ogwu, Chief Benard Oluku and Mrs Victoria Oluku.
We reliably gathered some members of the community who got wind of the action had sent out petition dated November 19, 2020 and addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Delta Command, and copied the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the Commander JTF, Agbaro, and the state’s Honourable Commissioner of Oil and Gas.
The petition titled ‘A Call For Immediate Intervention To Save Lives And Properties –
Complaint Of Plot To Assasinate Some Members Of Umuseti Community And Burn Their Houses’ and made available to our correspondent reads in part: “Umuseti community is in Utagba Ogbe, Kwale, the headquarters of Ndokwa West LGA of Delta state.
“They are the host community to Pillar oil and Gas which is a marginal oil company prospecting particularly in Umuseti. The community relationship with the company is guided by an MOU which is periodically renewed to meet the dynamics in the oil industry. In order to relate robustly with the company, the community through a conference of all interest groups home and diaspora created an internal MOU which serves as the constitution of the community in regulating their affairs with the company as well as other sundry issues in the community.
“The said Umuseti internal MOU established various committees which includes Community Development Committee, Contact Men Committee and Community Surveillance committee. The same MOU made the tenure of all the committees two years and provided for the sharing formula of all benefit from the company and all issues related thereto. The membership and functions of the various committees and the rotational principle of the offices amongst the three quarters in the community are equally contained in the said MOU. These measures were deeply considered and adopted by all interest groups for administrative convenience and to meet the peculiar circumstances of the community. The community has to this end worked successfully in accordance with the dictates of the MOU without interruption.
“In 2018, a new set of committees were elected by the three quarters in the community in accordance with the positions or offices available for the quarter in line with the rotational principle in the community as contained in the MOU. They variously took oath of office on 8th June 2018 and certificate of office issued to them by agents of Ndokwa West LGA. Their tenure therefore was expected to terminate on 8th June 2020.
“Unfortunately, the executives of the three committees refused all efforts for election to be conducted and refused to leave office. They contended that the oldest man in the community (Okpalla Uku) has extended their tenure. This move was resisted by the traditional prime minister of the community and his council of Chiefs who contended that tenure of committees being contained in the MOU is a constitutional issue. Besides there was no meeting of Ikpalla in Council which comprises of the oldest age grade in the community and the Chiefs usually presided by the community oldest man and the prime minister to deliberate on such matter by calling for conference where the MOU can be amended to meet with such demand?”
It further reads that the aforementioned committees petitioned to the executive chairman of Ndokwa West LGA where they sought his understanding to elongate their tenure, adding that, “The traditional prime minister and his chiefs, the head of age grades in the community and some concerned youths of the community wrote the LG chairman and also expressed their position.
“A meeting of all interest groups in the community was conveyed by the LG Chairman with all security heads in the LGA in July, 2020 after the committee had refused to vacate office on June 8th 2020. At the end of the meeting, the executive chairman of the LGA issued a white paper which terminates their tenure on 31st August 2020. This was so because the meeting was held after June 8th and to enable them put their house together.
“The committees who originated the petition to the LGA and were granted time beyond their tenure on the understanding that the meeting came after their tenure has ended petitioned the LGA chairman to the Governor of Delta state alleging him of collecting money to frustrate their tenure extension. The office of Conflict Resolution in Delta state based on the said petition visited Umuseti community. They met with various interest groups which includes the Okpalla Uku and his members, the said committees, a peace committee in the community who equally produced their report and collected written information from the groups. They although did not issue official report but was very clear that the tenure of the committees has ended.
“Dissatisfied too with the clear view of the office of conflict Resolution of Delta state Government, the said committees wrote the commissioner for oil and gas, Delta state. Stakeholders were again invited and the commissioner directed them to vacate office and hand over to a new committee within two weeks. Since the complaint was primarily against Pillar oil company, they were informed that they don’t have the right to interface with the company on behalf of the community since their tenure has ended.
“This group of committees and their armed members staged armed protest to Pillar oil company and stopped them from all manners of activities including production. The company was forced to enter an understanding with a group that does not have the legal right to represent the community. They took this aggressive step because they have been assisted by the security operatives in Kwale to force the company to pay them community stipends after the decision of commissioner for oil and gas whom they have also publicly announced in the community to have collected bribe to make decision against their interest.
“Worried by the moves of the committees from one office to another, the traditional prime minister and his Chiefs, the age grades, and some concerned youths approached the court of competent jurisdiction on the various issues. The court recently issued an injunction restraining the committees from parading themselves in such capacities and equally restrained the various companies in the community from interfacing with them.
“The result of this legal action is a clandestine plan by the listed members of the committees and their armed members to kill our clients and some other members of the community who they considered to be against their interest and burn their houses. Their plan is to force them and members of their families to flee the community in order for them to have interrupted elongation of office. They have planned to execute their actions in the night after court sitting on 26th November 2020 and had listed their targets.
“It is the development in the last paragraph, that we urge you to urgently invite the following persons to your office before 26th November 2020 to enter undertaking for themselves and their followers. Their plan is real and already coordinated for execution. Any delay therefore in inviting them before the said date will result in unimaginable consequences. A stitch in time saves nine. We in the circumstances pray for proactive measures.
“It should be noted that the said committees have vowed not to attend a meeting initiated by the commissioner for oil and gas in his office on 30th November 2020. The meeting was at the instance of their petition and they had planned to write the ministry that they will not be able to attend the meeting on the said date. Their sole reason is enable them unleash aggressive action against some members of the community who they have planned to kill and burn their houses or assault them and chase them out of the community.
“Our plea in the circumstances is your immediate intervention to compel all parties to your office to enter undertaking. Any delay on this beyond 26th Nov will be catastrophic. Include too that the said committees has always engaged in propaganda and blackmail to achieve their aim. They have resorted and continued to raise false allegations by way of propaganda against some individuals in the community and in the course of their refusal to leave office had alleged bribery first against a peace committee set up to address the challenges and also against Ndokwa West Local government chairman in their petition and against Delta state commissioner for oil and gas openly in the community gathering. These are antics to scare away right thinking people and to divert the attention of institutions.
“We are making a case of armed robbery against them. Some of them were armed and equally collected money from those they met at home. The armed group were led by Chief Ike Opone, Chief Sunday Nduku, Mr Chukwutem Kingsley Ndiom and Felix Izah. They vandalized and destroyed the houses of 8 members of the community including the house of the second oldest woman in the town. In the course of their actions, they assaulted some of the people they met at home and collected money from them on gun point claiming they need fund to entertain their boys.
“The whole mayhem resulted from the use of force by community committees whose tenure ended on 8th June 2020 to continue perpetually in office through the use of force. Those who they felt are opposed to their forceful and illegal tenure extension are targeted to be chased out of the community by all available force to enable them continue unchallenged.
The shutting down of Pillar oil facilities in Kwale was forcefully executed to compel the company to continue to relate with them on behalf of the community when they indeed have no legal right to interface with the company on behalf of the Umuseti community.
“Ironically, this armed group is known to the security agencies in Kwale and relate with them on daily basis. It is even on record that some of their leaders take shelter in the hand of a head of one of the security agents anytime they commit crime and are being looked for by other security agencies. Their modus of operation is to hold innocent members of the community and the oil company hostage and when the heat is on, they run to their paid ogas in the security family to take shelter while the security forces move around the community for few days and allow them to return to their homes.
“The armed group consider themselves as having monopoly of violence and believed strongly that they are untouchable. Otherwise, how on earth can someone be arrested for such level of economic sabotage of using force to shutdown oil production and all operations of an oil company for three days and unleashed carnage in the community the same day the arrested ones were released from detention.”
Source: News Express