Robertkiri settlers move out in peace, say they were not forced out


* Some of us have not seen the kind of money they got in one lump – villager

By Codratus Godson

Residents of Robertkiri in Kula area of Akuku-Toru local council area said on Friday, December 6, 2019, that were never forced out of the area but were rather well paid by Belema Pipeline Limited to relocate to give way to massive development.

This is as an oil terminal is emerging in the island is being constructed by a joint venture (JV) led by Belema Pipeline Limited, a subsidiary of Belemeoil. Newsmen that visited the island after almost two hours trip in water from Port Harcourt found that land of over 91 acres has been reclaimed and is under preparation.

The settlers in Robertkiri, numbering hundreds, seemed to be in happy spirit, having allegedly been paid what some residents called ‘size of money never seen before’. They were said to have moved to other nearby islands to give way for intensive construction work already on site. Heavy equipment are said to be on the way from Onne seaport.

Officials said the terminal is part of the Belema Industrial City planned for Kula. Robertkiri location would have an oil terminal, gas plant, water plant to manage the water from oil, storage facility, pipe coating, and many more. Excitement was in the air at Robertkiri. The area would soon showcase a dehydrated unit (DHU) farm tank to manage water that would come from oil drilled nearby.

Giving details on site, Mufaa Welsh, a director of the parent company to Belema Pipeline Limited, said work has begun in earnest, requiring human s to vacate Robertkiri. He said the company handed hundreds of millions to the settlers who he said have already vacated. “Now, we are here to appreciate them further. The founder (Jackrich Tein) has sent his appreciation to them. Goodies are coming and the youths are the target. Next week when different equipment will be arriving from Onne seaport, another token is also coming.”

He went on: “We express appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari who has empowered Belema to help the communities by approving an oil terminal here. This will bring many developments. Jack-Rich Jnr is the vehicle that is bringing these things.”

Sources said the location was first acquired by Gulf Oil in 1964 before it went to Chevron and to Texaco and now Belema through one of its subsidiaries, Belema Pipeline. Settlers who followed a canal to the place later occupied the place due to many years of lull moments.

The company however doled out payments ex-gracia to the settlers and land owners to facilitate faster and smooth relocation. They settlers also heard about massive job opportunities and empowerment schemes on the way.

A chief and spokesman in the area, Iboroma Kelly Brown, who is head of the demolished Robertkiri riverine settlement, said: “The ownership of this place has since 1964 been from Gulf Oil to Chevron and now to Belema. Now, development has come here; gas plant and other things are coming immediately. It will mean massive jobs and contracts like never before. We commend the Founder of Belemaoil and Belema Pipeline Limited, Jack-Rich Tein Jnr for bringing ceaseless development and for deploying strategies to move the settlers out without for or bitterness.”

Another chief, Fiala Okoye-Davies, spokesman Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, said the development coming was worthy and could transform Kula to another Dubai. “It is going to be a robust development drive. The Kula Council of Chiefs approved this and nobody was forcefully ejected.”

On his own, another chief, Ibiyosia Nath-Sukubo, Spokesman of Offoin-Ama Community, said; “We say without equivocation that this is an iconoclastic action in Kula kingdom. We are leaders and owners of the land. We are happy. We want the Belema Industrial City. We appeal to you to give jobs, empowerment to the people. We have no problem in Kula.”

A pastor in the area spoke in support of the relocation while the woman leader and landlay, Mpakamaire Pakagbure, commended Belema for bringing life back to the people. A landlord said they saw big money for the first time, while Ethime Japus, of Kula Youth Organisation worldwide said the impending projects seemed to be more for the youths. “It will bring engagements, jobs, empowerment, etc. We are thus happy and grateful to Belema Pipeline limited”.

Most speakers demanded for water, light, jetty, etc, to which the director (Welsh), said the contractor had been ordered to take action on the demands. He said the people around the area would see and taste modern life.