The crisis in the Ayetoro community in Ondo state deepened yesterday as the people of the community protested against the traditional ruler and spiritual head of the town, Oba Micah Ajijo, for allegedly diverting for his personal use, the N150m paid to the community in 2021 by Mobil Oil company as compensation for oil spillage.
During a protest in the community, the people threatened further showdown with the traditional ruler.
The protesters were armed with placards of various inscriptions, such as “Pay our money for peace to reign”, “Release our Mobil oil spillage fund with you since 2021”, “Ayetoro demands payment of Oil-spillage compensation”, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the people, the Chairman, Association of Fishermen, Pa Lawrence Lemamu, denied that the people attacked Oba Ajijo, as he claimed but that they demanded the oil-spill compensation paid into his account since 2021.
According to him,”Oba Ajijo vacated the palace to avoid the wrath of the people. The claims made by the monarch were regrettable, it was an indication that he was up to some mischief over the payment of oil-spill compensation. The monarch voluntarily vacated the palace when the residents of the town who are mainly fishermen demanded the money paid as compensation by the Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited”.
Lemamu explained that the sum of N150m was paid by the oil giant as out-of-court settlement for the action instituted against the oil company over the oil spillage that happened in the community in 1998.
He said that the oil-spillage destroyed the source of livelihood of farmers, fishermen while poultry and other domestic animals reared for commercial purpose were killed as a result of contamination of water caused by oil spillage.
He explained that the community representatives, which include, Snr Apostle Dele Kudehinbu, Prophet Jimmy Obakpolor and Snr Apostle Jackson Hommane, nominated Oba Ajijo to superintendent the disbursement of the compensation. He alleged that the traditional ruler, after taking delivery of the funds from Mobil, resorted to using the police to intimidate and harass members of the community.
According to him, “the community unanimously agreed upon an account to be submitted for the payment of this money but Micah Ajijo clandestinely and surreptitiously presented his account for payment of the compensation, while the fishermen waited endlessly.
“Since 2021 that the compensation was paid, attempts and frantic efforts have been made to call Micah Ajijo to order so that over 2000 people affected by the spillage who are predominantly fishermen would be paid their entitlement but all these efforts proved abortive. The money has been diverted into the personal purse of Ajijo while the people live in abject poverty. The beneficiaries having waited for two years for their money without positive results decided to embark on a peaceful protest to ensure the payment of the compensation”.
Lemamu said the protest was peaceful but the monarch sneaked out of the community to escape the wrath of the people over the compensation and that the monarch has now twisted the story that he was attacked by hoodlums
“This has been his style, all the allegations levelled against the people of the community are baseless and false. His house and property are intact. Some of his workers have started moving his property out of the palace, but we are peaceful people and will not take law into our hands.
“There was no assassination attempt or looting of his property. We cannot afford to lose him now, we have been praying for him so that the debts would be paid, no one will ever want to kill or pray for his debtor to die.
“We wish Micah Ajijo has valuables that we can hold in trust pending the time he can pay our money, but unfortunately he doesn’t. His allegations are baseless, we decided to record some of his men moving his property out of the house, we will produce the videos available when necessary”
He then called on the state government to wade into the matter and call the traditional ruler to order and intervene in the looming crisis in the community to prevent it from degenerating.
Contacted for comment, Oba Ajijo, who spoke through one of his aides, declined to trade allegations with the people of the community.
Ajijo said that the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu had waded into the crisis and that a committee has been set up to reconcile and find lasting solutions to the crisis in the community.
Recall that following the breakdown of law and order in the community, Governor Akeredolu inaugurated a reconciliation committee to find lasting peace to the crisis in Aiyetoro community arising from the disagreement on issues that bother on leadership and oil spill compensation.
In its terms of reference, the committee was mandated to investigate the remote and immediate cause of the disagreement and recommend appropriate strategies that will bring about lasting peace and development in the community and unite warring factions.
Akeredolu gave the committee three weeks to complete the assignment.