14 enraged Communities of Egi Kingdom in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State playing host to Total Energy picketed the oil multinational over the firm’s alleged disobedience to orders of court. The enraged indigenes of Egi Kingdom stormed the Port Harcourt office of Total Energies in Trans-Amadi area of Port Harcourt City LGA, demanding that the firm obey a court order stopping them from releasing money to Obagi Oilfield Host Communities Development Trust Fund (fund from the Petroleum Industry Act) till a case before it is dispensed. Justice Stephen Dalyop-Pam of the State High Court in Port Harcourt, had on the 25th of May, 2023 in a suit filed by Chief Ebenezer Hart-Eleba and three others against Total Energies and ten others issued a retraining order against the defendants and their agents from approving or releasing funds for the Obagi Oilfield Host communities Development Trust Fund pending the hearing and determination of a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
The court had also issued a restraining order in another suit by Gospel Hart and five others against Isaac Uchendu and seven others from presenting themselves, organising, attending, or participating or taking part in an inauguration as members of Board of Trustees of Obagi Oilfields Host communities Development Trust Fund for the OML 58 Oilfield operating area owned by Total Energies pending the hearing and determination of the suit. However, at the protest yesterday, Chief Ebenezer Hart-Eleba, who handed the protest letter attached with the orders of the court to the Management of the Total Energies, accused them of acting against court order and the will of the host communities. Hart-Eleba warned that the host communities would not fail to carry out action against the oil multinational should they continue to disobey the court orders and pay their entitlements if the 3% oil revenue provided for in the PIA to the wrong people. He said “Obagi and Egi are the host landlords and if there is anything that is happening in Egi at least Total is supposed to enlighten the people. Like this PIA, Total or their agents are supposed to come to Egi and enlighten the people. Total did not do that, what they did was to go to their choice and pick their brothers to represent the people.
“The Egi people said no, we will not allow that. We have producing families and communities, these families will bring people that will represent us in this PIA and not those handpicked by Total. The representatives they picked are EPA (Egi People’s Assembly) executives. You cannot be an executive in EPA and an executive in PIA. We say no to that. EPA is not the people that conduct election for oil and gas, but oil and gas conduct elections for themselves. The producing communities are not seeing scholarship, no skills acquisition why will that fraud continue? We are aggrieved and we went to court. The matter is till in court we now hear that all the people handpicked have been inaugurated into PIA and we said no. If they don’t want to obey court order that thing that happened in 1994 will fall back on Total. Total it not treating the landlords well again.”
Meanwhile, a Civil Society Organisation in Rivers State has advised oil multinationals operating in the state against any act that is capable of causing tension and breach of peace in the host communities. A representative of the CLO at the protest by the indigenes of Egi Kingdom, John Ihua, cautioned against disobedience to court orders especially from an organization which should be protecting the interest of their host. IHUA who is the State Coordinator of International Human Rights and Protection Initiative while calling for peace, advised the parties involved in the matter not to stir up issues in Egi considering the current security situation of neighboring Ahoada local government Area. However, the Manager, Stakeholders’ Engagement, Total Energies, Henry Ehuike, who received the protest letter, promised to deliver same to the appropriate quarters.