Finima leaders say no retreat in fight for host community rights

Leaders of Finima community in Bonny Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State have vowed to fight on for recognition as the host community, not all of Bonny.

Their spokesman, Dagogo Lambert Brown, an ex-Mobil worker, told newsmen on the island after the fracas that led to nine injuries and hospital cases 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 the number of injured persons getting as high as nine on the Finima side. Sources in Bonny have not responded with their own casualties as at the time of reporting, nor did the police give any figures.

The NLNG, which reacted later on Thursday, 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.

NLNG had earlier sent messages to its workers asking them to work from home because the protesters had blocked 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.

“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,” the company had said through its general manager, corporate affairs, Enoyo Fatai Williams.

“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,” it said.

Finima leaders, however, insisted 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 Finima leaders told journalists.

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 make way for return of normalcy and to allow Finima people return home. Yet, tension hung in the air to make Finima people wonder if they would be attacked at night or much later.

There are fears that the much-touted ground-breaking ceremony for the $10bn Train 7 may be hampered. Most business persons have asked to know if it would still go ahead in the midst of the fracas. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is billed to be the special guest of honour at the ground-breaking.

The fracas may also affect the planned birthday celebration of the traditional ruler of the kingdom on Friday, June 11.

In the meantime, 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 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.