Joint Action Group, IJAG, a coalition of organizations of Itsekiri ethnic nationality in Warri, Delta State, yesterday, laid siege to the office of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, shutting down its activities.
The group, which alleged marginalization of the ethnic group by the commission, stormed its office yesterday following the expiration of the seven-day ultimatum it issued the commission on October 25.
DESOPADEC workers scampered from their offices for safety when the protesters invaded the commission.
State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali, ordered his men to dislodge the protesters from the premises of the commission as soon as he got wind of the invasion.
As at 3.00 pm, the police had arrested no fewer than 11 of the protesters and impounded a coffin, which they brought to the commission’s office.
The Area Commander, Warri, Muazu Muhammed, who supervised the operation by the police, instructed his men to take apprehended protesters to the Police Headquarters in Asaba, the state capital.
Reacting to the development, Special Assistant, SA, on Media to the Managing Director of DESOPADEC, Dr Prince Orhomonokpaye, condemned the action of the protesters and said the current board was just two months old in office and required time to settle down and address issues to ensure that all oil-producing communities benefit positively from the commission.
While urging the group to sheathe its swords and embrace peace, which he said was the only way to even development, the SA appealed to the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILOT, to call the protesting group to order, noting, “It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war as united Deltans.”
IJAG comprises the National Association of Itsekiri Graduates, NAIG; National Association, Warri Social Development Associations, WSDA; Iwere Development Association, IDA; Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (Itsekiri chapter) and other stakeholders.
The group, led Prince O. U. Tuoyo, had accused the Urhobo ethnic nationality of lording it over other ethnic groups at the commission, claiming only the Urhobo had 1,345 staff, about 45.47 per cent of DESOPADEC’s workforce, while Itsekiri nation had 655, leaving Ijaw, Ndokwa, Isoko and others with the remaining percentage.
The crisis came to a head when the Managing Director of the commission reently redeployed an Itsekiri man, who was the Head of Security of the commission and replaced him with somebody from another ethnic group.
Surprisingly, suspected kidnappers abducted the wife of the new Chief Security Officer of the commission, Mrs Emily Oyokose, last Thursday, from her home at Oghara, Ethiope West Local Government Area.
The kidnappers, yesterday, demanded N20 million ransom.
Meanwhile, the state High Court sitting in Asaba, yesterday, adjourned the N230 billion suit by the leadership of Host Communities of Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, against the state government to November 12, 2015 for further hearing.
Hostcom had in December 2013 dragged the state government to court over the N230 billion alleged cumulated shortfall in the monthly allocation to DESOPADEC from 2007 to December 2013.
The matter which has been lingering for almost two years, was however adjourned by the State Chief Judge, Justice Marshall Umukoro, who just took over the case after it had been handled by two judges who could not conclude it.