Protesters from Rumucheta and Rumuk-wurukwuru communities in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, on Thursday disrupted operations at the office of Total Nigeria Limited in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
Accompanied by masquerades, women, elders and youths of the protesting communities erected canopies and set up kitchens at the entrance to the company’s premises as early as 8am to protest alleged marginalization.
An elder, Deacon Howels Nwanwa, told The Nation that the people were unhappy because, “They (Total) treat us as if we are kids and as if nobody owns this land.
“Our children and women are strolling about without hope. Our elders are jobless, and the little jobs we can do they give it to outsiders and they don’t recognize as (their) hosts and landlords. “The scholarships they say they are giving are being sold; we don’t know to whom they give it. Every year, you hear of scholarship, skills acquisition, but there’s nothing on ground.”
Speaking in the same vein, Wali Patience, Nwachukwu Florence and Ify Ann Ihunwo, women leaders lamented that the company denied them their dues for too long. Wali said, “They promised the women a cooperative for more than six years now they have not given it to us. Our youths are loitering everywhere; no job; we don’t get skill acquisition training and scholarship for our children.”
Florence Nwachukwu, a widow and mother of four, said, “We have came here to remind them that we are humans; they should treat us fairly. Up till now we have not received any signal and we are still waiting for them.”
Ify Ann Ihunwo and the other women carried placards with various inscriptions like: ‘Give us employment’; ‘Give us contracts, skill acquisition centers, scholarship etc’ and Stop divide-and-rule attitude’.
Although the protest was peaceful, the Rivers State Police Command deployed riot and regular policemen from over six divisions, including Elimgbu, MiniOkoro, Okporo, Metro Patrol and Elelenwon, to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
A staff of the company, who spoke with our reporter on condition of anonymity, assured that the grievances of the communities were being looked into, adding, “The community liaison officer came from Trans Amadi; he has spoken with them and everything is being sorted out.