The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria) has received distress calls from youths of Rumuekpe Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State alleging army invasion of their community’s protest ground, laying people down, destroying canopies, chairs, and torturing some others except women and children.
Speaking in an exclusive telephone conversation with the Executive Director of YEAC-Nigeria, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, some youths of the community who are also members of Advocacy Centre’s “One Million Youth Volunteers Network of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters in the Niger Delta” said the Army personnels came to the protest ground at the community entrance by about 2AM and others by past 3AM this morning of Thursday, October 5, 2023 with about ten Armored Personal Carriers (APC) and allegedly started shooting into the air, scaring the protesters, dispersing elders and the youths but the women remained adamant, refusing to leave the scene thus sustaining the protest that has lasted for over three weeks.
It would be recalled that the people of Rumuekpe, where four multinational and indigenous oil companies, including Shell, AGIP, Total, and NDPR, have been operating since 1956, took to the streets in protest, blocking the entrance to the community and demanding their inclusion in the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to Tantita Security Services Ltd. (TSSL) and for the oil companies operating to fix the deplorable state of the only access road into the community that is no longer passable.
The protesters, numbering over 3,000, involved many community members, including chiefs, elders, youths, women, and children, gathering at the entrance to the community 24 hours a day, keeping vigil, and preventing the company workers from accessing the community until their demands were met.
The protesters stay under erected canopies with chairs, cooking, drinking, and occupying the area under rain and sun to ensure that their demands, which also include youth employment and empowerment, are addressed.
The oil and leadership-related crisis that engulfed the Rumuekpe community in 2005, leading to the killings of many people, the burning of houses, and the exiling of thousands, is still fresh in memory, with the footprints of the major crisis still visible in the community, and this current crisis should not be allowed to degenerate and repeat itself 18 years later, in 2023.
YEAC-Nigeria calls on the authorities, including the Nigerian army, to stop the shootings and not to apply force or torture to members of the Rumuekpe community who are exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful demonstration, so that the ugly incidents of the 1990s, whereby there was a massacre of protesters, including the paramount ruler of Umuechem Community in Ikwerre Local Government Area in 1990, and the Ogoni massacre that started in 1993 following mass protests and the declaration of Shell persona nongrata that peaked in 1995 with the killing of Ogoni nine, do not repeat themselves in the 21st century.
YEAC-Nigeria believes that with Rumuekpe as one of the ‘heartbeats’ of Nigeria’s oil production, with four companies and many crisscrossing pipelines that youths even vandalized periodically for artisanal refineries, it is imperative to naturally include them in the pipeline surveillance jobs to protect the oil facility; thus, we are calling on the Federal Government to prevail on the managers of the TSSL to include Rumuekpe youths.
We also call on the oil majors to address development and employment issues in the Rumuekpe community to mitigate restiveness and achieve a smooth operating environment.
*Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface*,
Executive Director, YEAC-Nigeria
October 5, 2023BEWARE All Rights Reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without prior express written permission from Juliana Francis