25-year-old Benson Ikiowori would never have anticipated the soldier’s bullet that ended his life on June 1, 2023.

Bayelsa Community Moves to Shut Down Conoil Facility After Soldiers Killed Peaceful Protester [Daily Report Nigeria]

His “crime,” like that of other young people in the Sangana Community of Bayelsa State, was protesting at the Consolidated Oil and Gas Limited-run Oil Mining Lease 59 oil mine. CONOIL is a well-known Nigerian company. 

This protest led to Benson’s death, the injuries of several other youth indigenes, and the reported disappearance of two youths. Many residents claim that security personnel from the army responsible for protecting the vicinity are responsible for these sad occurrences. 

But what was the protest for?

The delayed implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CONOIL and the Sangana community caused the protest.

The failure of the oil company to execute the MoU after 25 years of operations in the area has amounted to an estimate of N420 million worth of projects being owed to the Sangana Community.

As per the Community Development Chairman (CDC) of Sangana, Comrade Reuben Preboye, whose comments featured in various national publications, “The MoU is for three years and is subject to renewal. The 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2022 MoUs have not been implemented and have accumulated over N300 million to N420 million worth of projects.”

Preboye also mentioned that CONOIL has refused to meet quarterly with the youths this year. They have also refused to ensure medical treatment for victims of a major gas leak from their operations in June 2022.

CONOIL suspected in pollution of Sangana [Environmental Rights Action]

The CONOIL-Sangana Fallout

Benson’s death and CONOIL’s alleged continued negligence have only led to more protests in the region. 

On June 3, with protesters holding placards such as “Why kill an innocent youth?” and “25 years of operation in Sangana, nothing to show for it”, tensions are high for the petroleum company to listen to their demands.

Youths protesting Benson Ikiowori’s death in Sangana, Bayelsa [Sahara Reporters]

With these protests, CONOIL has two options. One, address the lingering issues and compensate victims; and two, stop operations and evacuate the area. 

But despite the mounting pressure, CONOIL has not yet addressed the issue at hand. Major Adenegan Ojo, the spokesperson for Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), did not respond to our attempts to obtain comments. It is believed that OPDS could have shed light on the motivations behind the violent actions carried out by army security operatives.

Unfortunately, the Sangana Community is one of many oil communities in the South-South region that have suffered from pollution. This is due to oil giant operations. This also comes with records of tensions brewing high this year. 

Now, which way forward?

In Nigeria’s history, oil companies, especially those with foreign affiliations, are known for exploiting oil-rich communities’ resources. In doing this, they often do not keep their end of the bargain. So much is expected of CONOIL given its “home value,” with Mike Adenuga being the owner.

We hope the government will do its best to ensure peacekeeping, that institutions that hold all petroleum organisations accountable will do their due diligence, and that citizens’ needs are a priority. We need to see stiffer penalties on oil companies that fail to abide by laws and hold themselves accountable.



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