May 25, 2005
13 Oil Communities Protest Against Shell
The abandonment of phase II of the Imiringi - Nembe road project, being embarked upon by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has sparked off a gale of demonstrations in 13 host communities in the Niger Delta region.
From John Iwori in Yenagoa, 05.25.2005
THISDAY checks revealed that the operations of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant in the region might be jeopardised if the protests continue.
Already the chiefs, elders, women groups and youths in the communities are mobilizing for a showdown with SPDC if the company failed to commence work on the Otuegila-Nembe road project. By SPDC's estimation, the road project which started in 2002 would be completed December this year.
Addressing protesters at Emago-Kugbo in Abua/Odual Local Government area of Rivers State, during a visit by the leadership of a pressure group, Oturegila-Nembe Road Project Forum, led by its chairman, Chief D.K. Derri, a spokesman of the affected communities in Rivers State, Engr. Ferguson Tobins, lamented that though Emago-Kugbo was used as the first crude oil loading base in Nigeria by SPDC in 1957, there was nothing to show for it.
Tobins who is a university lecturer, said the Emago-Kugbo communities which have hosted SPDC for over five decades have rather been impoverished by the company’s oil and gas operations. He said that the only community development project that could benefit majority of stakeholders in the area was the Otuegila-Nembe road project and that failure by Shell to commence work on it would mean that the oil giant was no longer interested in her oil and gas activities in the communities.
At Otuegila, the spokesman for the community, Chief Alabo Mac Moses, while addressing the protesters, said that "sometime ago people came to this community to inform us that SPDC wanted to construct a road from the Otuegila through Idema to Nembe, so we were very happy. They later came to do the survey, and assessment about three years ago, yet nothing has been done on the proposed road".
Moses said SPDC having gained so much denied the community any form of development, adding that this time the community would not tolerate it any more.
Barrister Collins Daniel, who spoke on behalf of Idema community cautioned the protesters against violence and wanton destruction of oil facilities in the area.
He, however, regretted that SPDC had been unfair to the communities despite the fact that its oil and gas activities have devastated the environment and destroyed the socio-cultural system in the area.
Daniel said "we have continued to show this maturity, we shall continue, but one thing which I want to assure all of you is that there are other projects Shell is trying to undertake in this area. They have undertaken exploration at Santa Barbara, they have undertaken exploration at Soku Gas Plant, they have undertaken a number of other things within and around our communities.
"There is still the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGSII), a gas gathering project which Shell wants to undertake. It is believed to be passing through our communities. We will not allow Shell to undertake this project until it starts the construction of the proposed Otuegila-Nembe road project".
The Head of Idema Clan, King Justus Lioniel Joel, said he was at home with the protesters because they were non violent and urged the Otuegila-Nembe Road Project Forum, which visited him at his palace in Idema not to relent in the struggle for the actualization of the proposed Otuegila-Nembe road project. He said everything within the ambit of the law would be done to ensure that Shell commences work on the project soon.
The paramount ruler of Okoroba Communty, (where SPDC is said to have the largest un-drilled oil reserve in West Africa, among several other oil facilities) King Abraham Thomas Ako, during a similar visit by the Otuegila-Nembe Road Project Forum, also asked SPDC to commence construction work on the road project, adding "I am one of the crusaders of the Otuegila-Nembe road project. Okoroba community has not benefited from Shell".
He maintained that except the Otuegila-Nembe road project among other demands were met, Shell will not be allowed to operate its oil field located in the community.
Also addressing protesters in Oluosiri Clan, the Public Relations Officer of the Forum, Hon. Opusiri Noah Otobo, representing Nembe constituency III in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly cautioned the protesters against violence and wanton destruction of oil and gas facilities in the area.
He said, "I have received several protest letters from this constituency to the effect that SPDC promised to construct the proposed Otuegila-Nembe road, which was published in The Guardian of August 27, 2001, that they have concluded all due processes and that they were going to start the construction by January 2002 and to complete work in December 2005. This is May 2005, I got agitated by your complaints and I felt the taste of pudding being in the eating, I have to go round the affected communities to have first hand experience of the communities, visa-vis the state of the proposed Otuegila-Nember road. I have gone round, I have seen the sites. I have seen that there is a yawning gulf of difference between the SPDC world and that of her host communities".
Otobo said he was stunned at the sharp difference "While SPDC has pillaged, plundered and irreparably damaged and degraded the environment and cultural heritage of her host communities without leaving anything to comfort the people, except a backlog of abandoned projects and failed promises, the company's directors and top management live in affluence and work in good environment with medical facilities, good roads, communication.
The lawmaker recalled that Imiringi community in Ogbia local government had experienced three earth tremors caused by oil and gas exploration activities in the area. He said he would support the constituency to mount pressure on SPDC to commence construction work on the Otuegila-Nembe road but appealed to them to be calm and law abiding.
However, the paramount ruler of Otuma-Ama, Chief B.J. Edein warned that if SPDC failed to commence the road project, the host communities would stop all oil and gas activities in the area, pointing out that the multinational oil giant had fooled the host communities for over five decades without any tangible community development project in the area.
At Agrisaba and Biokponga communities, the people warned that all oil and gas activities, would be stopped if the peaceful protests failed to elicit any positive response.
The spokesman for Biokponga, Chief Sunday Eferebo, said SPDC would either construct the proposed road to continue its operations in the area or cease to operate altogether.
Nembe council of chiefs said SPDC has an obligation to construct the Otuegila-Nembe road which links not less than 13 host communities and to benefit about 22 neighbouring communities in both Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Speaking during a visit to Nembe by the Otuegila-Nembe road Project Forum's Leadership, the Vice Chairman of the Council, Chief Erewari Oruwari and Chief Solomon Dambo both regretted that SPDC had only devastated the environment and destroyed the socio-cultural heritage of the people without any meaningful development in the area.
Earlier, the chairman, of the Otuegila-Nembe Road Project Forum, Chief D.K. Deri, had told residents of affected communities along the proposed road that the forum was formed as a pressure group made up of responsible and highly placed personalities in the affected communities to mount sustained pressure on SPDC to fulfil its earlier promise.
According to Derri, the formation of the body was informed by information reaching the affected communities that SPDC, after plundering the resources in the area deemed it necessary without any body prompting it to construct a road, which was to start from Otuegila to cut across some communities in Rivers and Bayelsa State to Nembe.
He pointed out that if the affected host communities, which he noted had been impoverished by SPDC'S oil and gas operations for over five decades were linked by the proposed road, "it will be an avenue to open up the entire stretch to enhance both communication and commercial activities".
"The road, was to start by 2002 and to be completed in December 2005, but as we are discussing right now, nothing has been done. While we were all patiently waiting for SPDC to start this road, we heard it on very strong authority that SPDC had perfected its usual design to either completely cut off most of the communities or to wholly abandon the road.
"This information got to the youths of most of these communities and they had wanted to have a showdown with the multinational oil company called Shell. This explained why the concerned citizens from the affected 13 communities came together and put our heads together to ensure that we talk to the youths for them to hold on a little while we mount pressure on Shell to come and do the road, that is the history of the emergence of the Forum", Derri said.
Efforts to get Shell comments proved abortive as the Head of the Yenagoa office of SPDC Mr. Fidelis Agbiki was not on seat when THISDAY called.
However, a statement posted on SPDC website read that "work progressed on both phases of the $100 million Imiringi-Nembe Road. This is our largest community road project which, when completed, will connect 12 major communities to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Posted by Publisher at May 25, 2005 05:40 PM
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