Shell oil, Nigerian govt make top dollars in degraded communities
By Taiwo Adelu
London, July 20, 2019 (AltAfrica)-As the communities hosting Shell oil multi-billion dollars OML25 Flow Station, part of the NNPC/Shell Joint Venture lay in ruins and degraded, efforts are on by Rivers state government and oil giant, Shell to reopen the shut flow and return to business as usual
But the communities, Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ngeje all in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State have cried out to alert the world of the inhumane treatment the land and the people of the areas are suffering in the hand of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SDPC) of Nigeria.
The leadership of Belema, who also alleged official conspiracy by the Government of Rivers State, declared that having failed to live up to expectations, Shell has no moral right to continue operating its business on their land.
The leadership and people of King Oko Royal House, the host community of OML25 (Belema oil field), while explaining controversies surrounding the shutdown of the oil field since 2017, said that there was nothing warranting the recent unsolicited intervention of the Rives State Government, which resulted to a purported signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that had further fueled already tense crisis.
“It should be known as a truth that King Oko Royal Family gave the land to SPDC in 1980 to build the Flow-Station. This was done after findings and due consultation with the Kula people as per the ownership of that area. The document was signed by the Late King, H.R.M. Fenibo Oko XXVII and the present King, H.R.M Bourdillon Oko XXVIII. It is equally true that for almost 40 years of its operations of oil and gas, SPDC has not only failed woefully in discharging its Corporate Social Responsibilities, but has also destroyed our aquatic lives via its continuous oil exploration and gas flaring without any remediation or clean-up plan.
This pathetic situation has left our community completely impoverished, while battling with terminal diseases as a result of the highly polluted water we drink from. Our farm lands polluted with massive oil spill, our social lives battered and deranged as a result of SPDC’s divide and rule operating style, empowering one group that sees their ill-operations as good to fighting those who are opposed to their unfair and wicked operating pattern.” These were the words of Alabo (Engr.) Fiala Okoye-Davies, Spokesman of Kola Supreme Council of Traditional Chiefs.
The host community of OML25 also revealed that Shell has not been good in honouring agreements and MOU signed like the GMOU, which the oil giant never honoured till date.
“In 2013, SPDC placed OML25 for divestment at $450 million to some former SPDC and NNPC retirees with the name Crester. The community protested against it because we refused to be handed over from one foreign slave-master to another local company whose antecedents are unknown to us. Following the continuous protest, the sale of OML25 to Crester Nigeria was cancelled and Crester/Belema Oil JVC was approved in 2015.
“Upon this approval, SPDC refused to honour the settlement agreement reached with our community since then. This was the lingering crisis until the community shut-down the OML25 in July 2017 and declared SPDC a persona non grata in our land.
“Following the shut-down of OML25 in August 2017, NNPC summoned and held a consultative meeting with SPDC, PANDEF and the host community led by H.R.M King Bourdillon Ekine Oko XXVIII. The outcome of the meeting among other things was a joint investigative visit to Belema community to ascertain the veracity of the claim by SPDC that it has spent over $300 million which SPDC declined till date. Negotiations are still ongoing with the Federal Government represented by NNPC and NAPIMS,” Okoye-Davies said.
At Offoinama community, the sight of the environment and the condition of living are sorry tales to tell. Oil spillage has affected what the people supposes to live on. The people are living under unbearable condition with no portable water supply, non existence of good health facilities, the school built for the children in this community, the Community Primary School, Offoboko, is nothing to write home about. The pupils are learning in what could be described as a shanty environment.
Headmaster Oboro Sunday told Alternative Africa that the school could only boast of 11 staff with no chair or table for the use of the pupils. “We are suffering here, no staff room and accommodation for the teachers. Many who came here left because the condition is not conduicive, Shell should help us by providing good environment for these kids to learn, education is the best legacy we can give these children. We need health centres. We are not asking for much but only the basic amenities that will make life meaningful for the people here,” said the Headmaster
To Dr. Prince Augustine Joseph, a medical doctor, who always comes to Offoinama once in three months to attend to the health needs of the community, Shell and the Government of Rivers State have abandoned the people to their faith. “The people are suffering despite the fact that oil exploration on their land is a billion dollars investment. There has been lot of death from pregnant women who could not get medical attention, children die anyhow and diseases are on the increase. Minor malaria kills easily in Offoinama. I will only appeal to Shell and the government to come to the aid of these people,” said Dr. Joseph, who resides in Port Harcourt, several kilometers to the community with only boat as a means of transportation..
President of Belema Central Women Association, Mrs. Diana Aboko vowed that the OML25 Flow Station which had been shutdown and occupied by the women since 2017 would remain shut until Shell do the needful to the community.
“Most of our children have run away from the community because there is no meaningful life here. We have no place to go except this community which oil exploration has made to degenerate. There is nothing coming to this community from Shell. That is the reason we insisted that Shell must go,” Mrs. Aboko said.
To Sir (Chief) Ibosiya Nath-Sukubo, one of the high chiefs in the communities said that they are fighting a war for the reparation of what is due to the communities from Shell since inception of oil production on their land not for any other thing than the legacy of their future generation.
“We don’t have a single government project in our community. The only project the local government has in the land is the dissolution and appointment of youths and Community Development Council (CDC) executives that will do their bidding during election,” Sir Nath-Sukubo said.
The Paramount Ruler of Kola Kingdom, Kroma Amabibi Elek, Sara XIV, described Shell as an ‘evil and demonic company’. He chided the Rivers State Government for convening a meeting of stakeholders with most people in the meeting having nothing to do with the crisis. The monarch insisted that he would follow the bidding of his people, while government and Shell should yield to their demands for the sake of peace.
His Highness Anabs Sara-Igbe, who is a Spokesman for Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) wants Shell to show the world what the company has done with the $300 million it claimed it has spent on Belema land and its people.
“You can see the level of what Shell has turned Offoin-Ama, one of the host communities in Belema to. The level of unmitigated neglect, oil pollution and abject poverty ravaging the owners of an acreage that account for over 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day and 103,000 metric cubic feet of gas per day amounting to billions of petrodollars accruable to the federation account of the Nigerian Government yet no visible basic amenity to show for over 40 years of oil exploration in the area by an oil multinational company, Shell. This is so sad,
“Shell should come out to tell us what the company is doing here. We want NNPC and other relevant stakeholders to come and inspect what is happening. We are demanding from Shell the sum of $130 million every year since 2015, which it has refused to give us. It is our money, Shell should pay us and go,” Sara-Igbe said.
On the solution that will bring peace to the land, the leadership of Kula Kingdom said that as a matter of urgency Shell should construct a major road from Degema to Kula and its adjoining communities. The right of refusal should be given to the community on the divestment of OML25 by Shell while the operational right be given to Belema Oil Producing Limited, a indigenous company which they have confidence that it would develop their community. The Nigeria Navy, Department of State Security (DSS) and the Police be advised not to be used by Rivers State Government against their communities. The communities called on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a special committee to undertake a visitation and investigate the suffering of the people of Kula Kingdom under SDPC in the last 40 years of operation on their land and to prevail on the Rivers State Government to allow the peaceful dialogue that has been orchestrated by NAPIMS and the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria.
In a swift reactions to the allegation leveled against the oil giant by the people Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ngeje communities, Igo Weli, SPDC General Manager External Relations, while commenting on a media enquiry on the nagging issues said that ” Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd-operated Joint Venture (SPDC JV)’s commitment to the welfare of host communities in the Niger Delta remains unshaken, even as we debunk every allegation that we neglected the development of communities in Kula kingdom and Belema in Rivers State.
“The host communities of OML 25, including Belema and Offoin-ama have continued to benefit from contract awards, employment of unskilled labour and our social investment programmes, including yearly award of regular and special scholarships to eligible candidates from the area.
“Notwithstanding that SPDC has divested its equity in OML 24, which covers most of the communities in Kula and Belema, the SPDC JV has continued to implement agreed Social Investment programmes such as scholarship and entrepreneurship schemes for the communities there. With the divestment of its interest in OML 24, SPDC relinquished operatorship of the facilities in that field.
“On the continued forceful occupation of the SPDC JV’s Belema oil and gas flow-station these past two years, SPDC JV hopes for a peaceful resolution of all issues to enable us to resume safe operations of our Belema oil and gas facility.
“We ask all stakeholders to give the government-led mediation process the needed chance for a peaceful resolution and to protect the health, safety and security of all concerned, including community members, SPDC staff and contractors and the facility.”