Turn down request for discussion in the face of attacks from Bonny youths
· NLNG says its matter between two communities
· Ground breaking next week threatened
By Ignatius Chukwu
Finima leaders in Bonny Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State have vowed to fight on for recognition as the host community, not all of Bonny.
The spokesman, Dagogo Lambert Brown, an ex-Mobil worker, told newsmen on the island after the fracas that led to nine injuries and hospital cases (no death was eventually recorded) that the attempt by men from Bonny to visit them with harm would rather make Finima more determined.
He said his people have resolved to fight to the end until the 2010 local content act is implemented in the NLNG.
Finima community staged an early morning protest at the gate of the NLNG which started with dances and placards but ended in bloody clashes with injured persons getting as high as nine on the Finima side. Sources in Bonny have not responded with their own casualties nor did the police give any figures.
The NLNG which reacted later in the day called it “disagreement between two groups on Bonny Island, which has led to protests and blockade of some major routes” and took the position of a good corporate citizen that would out of magnanimity support peace processes.
The company had stated through its general manager, corporate affairs, Enoyo Fatai Williams, thus; “NLNG wishes to state that as a good corporate citizen, it applies the principle of fairness and inclusiveness in engaging with its esteemed stakeholders. The Company has always considered all stakeholders in the community trusted partners, and it continues to maintain this position.
“NLNG remains fully committed to sustainable development in the kingdom, hinged on active community participation to drive initiatives and projects that positively impact the lives of the community.”
Finima leaders however insisted to newsmen that their protest was against the NLNG. “We are not fighting kingship issues or kingdom matters. We are not fight Bonny people. We do not understand why they would come and attack their brothers who were conveying their justified grievances to the NLNG.”
The company had earlier sent messages to its workers asking them to work from home as a result of the blockade at its gates. Workers who closed at night could not go home in the morning, while those that came in the morning could not access the place. Security officials massed on one side while the Finima community escorted by their shrine pieces massed at the gates. Bonny youths occupied the upper roundabout where they were met by Finima youths to commence the fracas.
Brown said the community turned down calls from the NLNG for a meeting in the heat of the fracas at about 10.35am, saying the leaders could not have afforded to attend any such meetings when hoodlums from Bonny were clubbing down and macheting Finima men. He accused the gas multinational of knowing much about the attacks from Bonny.
Markets and other businesses shut down on security advice in all of Finima when waves of attacks came from Bonny. Cars were burnt and others smashed. Houses were smashed. Many received machete cuts.
Most of the Finima victims interviewed at the Finima Health Centre and other locations named persons from Bonny they said attacked them, and what they claimed the attackers said to them.
The police command on the Island moved at about 1pm to clear the Bonny youths to allow normalcy to return and to allow Finima people to return home. Yet, tension hung in the air to make Finima people wonder if they would be attacked at night or much later.
The much-touted ground-breaking ceremony for the $10Bn Train 7 may be hampered as most business persons have asked to know if it would still go ahead in the midst of the fracas.
The vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, is billed to be the special guest of honour. This is as the king of the kingdom is expected to celebrate his birthday the next day of the fracas, Friday, June 11, 2021.
The Finima elders have called on the federal government, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC that entered into agreement with Finima) and the NLNG to intervene on time before things get out of hand, vowing they would not surrender their right to their ancestral home that was taken over to mount the gas trains and other sensitive facilities on the island.
HOW IT BEGAN, HOW IT TURNED VIOLENT
NLNG gates blocked, workers turned off
AS FINIMA COMMUNITY DEMANDS CORRECT SHARE
Gates of the multi billion dollar of the NLNG have been blocked. Workers coming to start morning shift have been turned away.
The action is organized by the Finima community which complained of not getting host community status.
Soldiers and other security agencies have started arriving to take position. Tension is beginning to rise.
Some of the protest organisers have warned against any attempt by security agencies from harming the protesters.
The community leaders who are yet to address the people hinted unofficially to newsmen that all host community rights go to the larger Bonny leadership whereas the entire land housing the complex belongs to Finima community.
A leader who was not authorised to speak to newsmen said they have used many other forms of communication to seek resolution of the issues to no avail.
They said several memos written to the government and the NLNG have fallen on deaf ears, saying physical is the last resort.
Workers leaving the plant have been trapped inside while new ones cannot enter. NLNG officials were yet to arrive to speak to the situation.
PROTEST TURNs VIOLENT
By 10am, the peaceful protest started to turn violent. Bonny youths mobilised to scatter the protest.
Indications were that one Finima youth had just been killed and his body taken away. (It turned out that he only fainted and was taken away by security operatives to a hospital).
Finima people rushed to carry irons to go fight back. The struggle now is about access to the gates. Bonny youths want to free the gates to show superiority.
The NLNG has briefed the workers and instructed them to work from home.