Bayelsa govt wade into Shell communities face – off

Samuel Oyadongha

Yenagoa – Bayelsa State government has waded into the lingering face-off between the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and four protesting Kolo Creek communities of Imiringi, Elebele, Otuasega and Oruma with a meeting slated for today (Wednesday).

We reliably gathered that the Kolo Creek manifold which was shut down ago three weeks ago in the wake of the communities’ agitation against the oil giant will be reopen at the end of parley.

The intervention of the government it was learnt might not be unconnected with the anticipated arrival today of the expatriates handling the installation of its gas turbine who are expected to test the quality of gas that would power the turbine which incidentally is being supplied by the oil giant.

Also some of the protesting communities’ youths that were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday in connection with the crisis by men of the state security outfit, Operation Famou Tangbe over alleged gang up between the oil giant and some persons in government to stifle the communities’ agitation were yesterday afternoon released as part of the move to resolving the lingering face off.

The arrest of the youths did not go down well with the group, Environment Rights Action/Friends of the Earth which said protests are legitimate ways used in all civilised climes to press home demands for positive manifestations.

The group coordinator in the state, Comrade Alagoa Morris had urged the authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation by allowing dialogue and reason to play out.

It was also gathered that Governor Timipre Sylva was not happy with the development in the oil and rich enclave, which is host to the SPDC Kolo Creek Logistics Base and the state Independent Power Plant, the Imiringi Gas Turbine given the strategic role of the area in state.

The Kolo Creek manifold it was reliably gathered was the main stay of the revenue at the height of youth militancy when all the other flow stations in the state were crippled and is also expected to play a bigger role being the supplier of gas to the state owned turbine which is expected to compliment power from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria grid.

The governor it was learnt called for a meeting with the chiefs of the aggrieved communities as he would not want to matter to linger on and jeopardize government effort addressing the electricity need of the populace.
Though the meeting was scheduled for Monday but Vanguard learnt that it was postponed to Wednesday as according to a source “the information did not get to most of the chiefs as well as due to the impromptu trip of the governor out of the state.”

Each of the protesting communities is to present four representatives alongside their chiefs where they are expected to table their demands before the governor.

Also expected at the enlarged meeting is the Managing Director of SPDC.
One of the youth leaders from the protesting communities told our correspondent that the shut down manifold would be reopened tomorrow after the meeting being brokered by the state governor.

“We are optimistic that with the governor’s intervention fruitful negotiation would be done and we will reopen the manifold in the presence of the government representatives and SPDC after signing a new agreement,” the youth leader said.

Contacted the SPDC Spokesman, Mr. Precious Okolobo, confirmed that the manifold had not been reopened.

He had last week reiterated the preparedness of the company to dialogue with the protesting communities.
“We are in the process of engaging the protesting youths who have tampered with our installations in such a manner that poses serious threat to people and the environment. The Bayelsa State Government has been informed of the situation, and we hope that it will be resolved peacefully,” he said.

The communities are protesting among others the company should honour the 1999 agreement reached with them in which SPDC promise to supply them electricity as well as provide them with water and good roads.

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