The Ifalbobou Revolutionary Movement has expressed concern over the operations of First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company (First E&P) within the host communities in Bayelsa State, known as KEFFES.
KEFFES, is an acronym for the eight Chevron host communities in Bayelsa State, comprising Koluama 1 and 2, Ezetu 1 and 2, Foropa, Fish Town, Ekeni and Sangana, located on the Atlantic coastline.
First E&P in 2015 acquired the two oil blocks (OML 85 and 86) from Chevron Nigeria Limited.
The group said they had safety concerns on the rig deployed at the operational area by First E&P and later withdrew an ultimatum on the grounds that stakeholders had intervened to resolve the concerns it expressed.
It will be recalled that a rig explosion at an oilfield operated by Chevron in the area in January 2012 ignited a fire that burnt down the ill-fated KS-Eandeavor rig and destroyed the ecosystem.
The group had alleged that First E&P entered the host communities and began to drill operations without conducting the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment to determine the health impact of its activities on the communities.
Reacting to the allegation, Mathew Sele-Epri, the Chairman of KEFFES Regional Development Foundation, set up to interface with oil firms, dismissed the group as self serving.
Sele-Epri said the foundation was a creation of the KEFFES communities to liaise with First E&P and other oil firms operating in the area.
He therefore described the allegation of shielding the company as baseless.
According to him, the community leadership has a written Memorandum of Understanding, which came into effect shortly after the acquisition of the oil firm.
He said Chevron had conducted EIA on the oil blocks prior to divestment, adding that First E&P had conducted baseline studies before commencement of drilling.
See-epri said: “The KEFFES Rural Development Foundation (KRDF) under my leadership holds firmly to the principle of transparency, the allegations are totally false, the oil firm has an existing cordial relationship with First E&P guided by an MoU.
“The community was given employment slots and we cannot be silent when there is misinformation.
“The group is self-seeking and its allegations and claims have no basis.
“The community and its leadership remain committed to maintaining peace to retain the interest of investors and attract additional investment to the KEFFES communities.”
But Joseph Sese, the leader of IRM, said First E&P was yet to address the concerns it raised.
Sese accused the leadership of KEFFES KRDF of abandoning the communities it ought to be representing and assumed the work of the spokesman of the company.
He said: “Before we issued the ultimatum, our concerns were against the company, First E & P and not the KRDF.”
He wondered why the representative of a host community as KRDF should be the first to respond to the allegations in a matter as serious as EIA report.
“It even went as far as misrepresenting the outcome of the intervention efforts by critical stakeholders in the industry to deceive the public by stating that the issues raised by this group have been addressed,” he said.
Sese expressed worry that 18 job slots for eight host communities was too small to meet the need of the teeming unemployed youths.
IRM demanded the display of an up-to-date certification from Department of Petroleum Resources for the twenty wells First E&P was allegedly about to drill in the operation.
Sese said the group would seek the support of international environmental rights groups to protest and draw attention to the breach of best practices at KEFFES oilfields.
First E&P officials declined comments on the developments.