The Ondo State government on Wednesday, advised bitumen producing communities against committing violence acts capable of destroying the benefit of bitumen exploitation.
The bitumen producing communities include Orisunmibare/Ilubinrun Camp, Ufara-Moraye (Araromi Obu), Ilubinrun/Ajayi Camp, Mile 2 Camp, Ogunmakin/Odomode Camp, Mulekangbo Camp and Agbabu.
Prof. Bayonle Ademodi, the state Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties, gave the advice during an interactive session with bitumen host communities in Odigbo, Odigbo Local Government area of the state.
Ademodi assured the traditional rulers of the host communities that their views and opinions would be adequately captured and considered as the bitumen development process moved forward.
He added that it was in the interest of the communities to give maximum support to government and investors, who would bring in their funds to invest.
According to him, the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, is highly committed to peaceful exploitation of bitumen, saying that the cooperation of the host communities is of top priority.
“The present administration has been working relentlessly to ensure that bitumen is produced in the state and Mr Governor is intent on providing an enabling environment for every genuine investor to do their business in a very congenial atmosphere.
“Please join the efforts of the governor in all ramifications for the successful development of the bitumen resources,” he said.
The commissioner noted that government had been talking to the licensed bitumen companies operating in the state to play by the rules.
“The companies should ensure that provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, which provide for strict adherence to Community Development Agreement (CDA) and proper conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), are observed to the letter.
“The state government has taken it upon itself to ensure that people at the community level are not short-changed and made to suffer.
“At the ministry’s last meeting with the licensed bitumen companies on Oct. 16, the five local government chairmen within the bitumen belt of Ondo State were present.
“And I am pleased to inform you that the Chairman of Odigbo Local Government, Hon. Margaret Akinsuroju, was one of the five chairmen present and her contributions were far-reaching,” he said.
Ademodi recalled that similar interactive sessions had been successfully carried out in Irele and Okitipupa local councils to avoid unhealthy community/investors relationship.
The commissioner promised that their contributions would be critically assessed and factored into the bitumen development policy of the state.
He, however, said that nobody would give money to anybody, but that there would be opportunities for job and good infrastructure.
“There must be patience and cooperation, because there may be environmental challenges in the course of exploitation of the bitumen,” the commissioner said.
Similarly, Mr Ebenezer Ogunsanmi, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, said that the meeting was to know the host communities’ roles in ensuring peace and tranquillity in the exploration and exploitation of bitumen in the areas.
Ogunsanmi noted that development of bitumen would create employment opportunities for indigenous youths and provide good infrastructure to the communities by the bitumen investors.
He enjoined the communities not to create the impression that the state was not safe for investment.
Oba Rufus Akinrinmade, the Orunja of Odigbo kingdom, tasked the communities to shun sentiment and speculations, which were inimical to the exploitation exercise.
He urged them to be patient and allow peace to reign, as no investors would come to crisis-prone areas, adding all would benefit from the gains of the bitumen.
Mrs Margaret Akinsuroju, the Caretaker Chairman of Odigbo Local Government, said bitumen exploitation was a welcome development, urging the communities to be united and cooperate with the bitumen companies.
Mr Rashidi Giwa, a community leader from Olokuta and Mr Babatunde Oni, a graduate of mining geology, asked for equitable distribution of gains and benefits by the bitumen companies and the government.
According to them, cheating often orchestrates violence in any society.
Mr Kayode Zaccheaus, a youth representative from Odigbo council area, asked the bitumen companies and the government to give youths their dues and have listening ears, even as he pledged their cooperation and support.