By Godwin Egba, Port-Harcourt
Once again the enviable Eleme Industrial land in Rivers State can enjoy peace after over five years of protracted crises between Elano Nigeria Limited and some groups in Eleme host communities of the Indorama world-class Petrol Chemical and Fertilizers Company situated near Port-Harcourt, Rives State capital.
Elano is a registered corporate entity that acquired the shares for the communities and secured the right to manage the dividends accruing from the Indorama Company to six host communities in the Eleme geographical land. The relationship between Elano and its clients, the host communities, began from 2012 when the FG ceded some equity to the host communities as part of Corporate Social Responsibility policy.
However the good intentions turned sour some few years later as allegations and suspicion against Elano management started flying about from the communities such as Aleto and Agbonchia claiming that their people had lost confidence in the company (Elano) over seemingly or alleged discrepancies in managing the funds
Some of the communities shared their dividend among their people with the best trust they could which include both males and females, young and old; while others reserved theirs for development purposes. Aleto which has eleven communities was bugged down by court cases with its Akpajo brothers and this dragged Elano management in it.
Along the line, a couple of irate youths from the Aleto extraction caused mayhem within the community where a number of highly valued properties belonging to some persons believed to have direct or indirect link with Elano management were destroyed. Also a good number of youths and women from the communities did not spare the management of Indorama to vent their grievances through protests. All these happened in 2017 even as the case lingered in the Federal High court sitting in Rivers State Capital Port-Harcourt.
However in the heat of the protest, the Indorama Management did not fold its arms over the crises stating severally that every kobo due to the host communities was paid out through Elano as agreed and never diverted or kept back. The communities were tacit in their demand that Elano should no longer manage their shares but that it should be channeled through their newly arranged account to be managed by their appointed representatives.
Even as the air thickened for further possible outburst of anger in the Aleto Community, stakeholders like the Aleto traditional rulers in the person of Joseph Oluji, hief of Ewuu Community, Eleme Local Government Authority, and the Rivers State Government led Governor Nyesom Wike, were on top of the disagreement between Elano and the host communities to bring lasting solution.
Also, through the Federal High Court sitting in the Port Harcourt, the storm finally calmed in the month of January 2018 as the court ordered the release of the people’s money by ruling on the ownership of the land in question. From all indications, both, Elano, the court, and the crying communities finally came to a compromise on sharing what belongs to whom – legal fees, bank interest charges and other debt among others.
The chief, Joseph Oluji, who is also the secretary to the Aleto council of chiefs, confirmed in an interview with BusinessDay that after all deductibles, the Aleto people smiled home with at least ₦6.4 billion.
He explained that N1.9Bn was deducted to serve debt and bank interest while N1Bn was kept aside as savings for the people while over N3Bn was paid into the community account through the various traditional rulers of the eleven communities for onward disbursement sent to the various unconfirmed number of beneficiaries.
According to him, each beneficiary got over N800,000 which had gone a long way in solving many individuals’ critical socio-economic problems, pointing out that many poor families could now pay school fees of their indigent children and wards while some age long bachelors and unemployed alike have begun to run after their life partner’s and businesses.
Oluji who commended the existing co – operation between his Aleto people and the management of Indorama company limited pleaded that the management should no longer be ill advised by external groups or persons to avoid mistakes of the past that led to the crises.
He assured that with the new system of payment everybody is full of hope that the youths through their chiefs would embrace round-table settlement instead of arm-bearing protests, emphasizing that conflict resolution is best achieved through “ dialogue and not war-war“.
“We are not advocates of crises against any company operating on our land. God that brought Indorama did not make any mistake; as such it is a common sense for our generation yet unborn will continue to enjoy “, Oluji said.
He said any chief who fled the community over a year ago at heat of the crises between the youths and some individuals in Aleto community can now return home. Oluji urged to the entire Aleto youths to bury their hatchets and embrace peace for the socio economic development of Eleme as a whole.
However, the high chief expressed concern that there was wind of insecurity blowing across Eleme following the circulation of large sums of money in Aleto, pointing out that some criminals were believed to have infiltrated the area space.
According to him, a young man was caught early last week on criminal act but he escaped lynching due to his intervention and the police that rushed the scene of the crime, adding that Eleme would engage the services of its hunters Association which he is the patron and also engagement of vigilantes and other security volunteers to compliment the effort of the police and other security agencies in Eleme.