Anxiety heightened last week in the oil and gas -rich Eleme kingdom where notable political, traditional and social figures converged to pass a verdict of non-performance and neglect of host community on the several maritime, oil and gas business empires operating within the locality.
The anxiety has become more palpable on account of the lingering face-off between militants and the Joint Military Task Force (JTF).Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State is host to many oil and gas companies, the oil and gas free trade zone, the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), the Port Harcourt Refinery Company, the former Eleme Petrochemicals company; now privatized and renamed Indorama, Intels Nigeria Limited, Brawal, West Africa Container Terminal and a host of other blue-chip companies.
The political leadership within the community, the youths, traditional and other groups have vowed to line up in support of mass action against the companies.
Shipping Position Weekly correspondent quotes the chairman of Eleme Local Council as saying that: “I will personally come out and lead the protest on that day, since that is the wishes of the people and I represent them in this position”, he said adding that “it’s a continuous struggle, but we must not be taken for granted anymore”.
The fragile peace which currently exists in the coastal community may soon give way to unrests and perhaps violence, except urgent steps are taken to nip the emerging discontent in the bud.
The rising discontent with the companies came to the fore last week at the second the all- inclusive Eleme stakeholders meetings which held at the council headquarters and which drew various stakeholders from the youths to the political leadership to the academia and traditional institutions.
Our correspondent reported that the stakeholders meeting was well attended with almost all the traditional rulers from the 10 clans in attendance, including former commissioner for education in Rives State; Professor Israel Owate, past and present leaders of the council as well as opinion leaders.
The floodgate of complaints was flung opened by the chairman of the council, Hon Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa who after reeling out his achievements reportedly called for Shipping Position Weekly confirmed that first to speak was a highly respected community leader whose identity was given as Chief K.N. Waite.
According to him, Eleme people are not benefiting from the activities of the companies that are operating on their land as their youths are denied employment by these companies. He wondered why the Greater Port Harcourt city committee has no single Eleme in the committee, yet the whole of Eleme Local Government Area is in the Greater Port Harcourt city Project.
The community leader also had an axe to grind with the Rivers state government which it accused of deliberately sidelining indigenes of the town. He wondered why no .Eleme person was among the 70 persons who were recently selected and given scholarship to study in Canada by the state government.
Shipping Position Weekly also confirmed that the people are annoyed that in spite of its rich natural endowments, there has been no electricity supply in Onne for several months and the gas turbines that were reportedly built and commissioned by three different heads of state in Eleme has not worked for one day.
Our correspondent could however not confirm the allegations levelled against the companies as none of them was willing to speak on the issues that were raised. He however confirmed growing tension among the people and within the various communities that make up the Eleme kingdom.