Shell, protesters trade words

*’Shell is our enemy’ – Protesters

*’No, we have kept our promises’ – Shell

George Onah

13 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt- For four consecutive days, hundreds of placard carrying women and youths have been protesting in Joinkrama 4 community, Ahoada West Council, Rivers State over alleged insensitivity and disrespect to existing agreement by Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The protest started since Monday at the community also known as Edagberi/Betterland and the angry crowd has vowed not to relent until SPDC returns to its promise on the provision of infrastructural facilities.

But the company through its spokesman Mr. Precious Okoloma in an online mail to Vanguard, yesterday, said “SPDC has been working closely with the leadership of Joinkrama-4 community on the provision of amenities in the area. These include provision of electricity, scholarship awards and construction of access roads.

SPDC is concluding repair of a faulty generator set that has been supplying electricity to the community. In the meantime, SPDC still issues diesel everyday for the community to run their own generating set. Legacy water project has been agreed to be re-negotiated in form of ‘buy-back”.

According to Okolobo, this followed the “agreed cost being transferred to the community project GMoU account for their own execution via that platform. SPDC has long activated their Cluster Development Board account and community re-assured of this, once again”.

Also, he said the “decline in number of post-primary scholarship slots to the community was due to decline in production caused by security issues in the area, explaining that “contract award is being firmed up for repair of Akinima – Adibawa Road pending total reconstruction”.

He appealed to the women and youths to relax because “SPDC will continue to partner with the community on the implementation of development projects in the area”.

Some of the placards read, “No to polluted river”, “we want constant electricity, 40 years of oil operation nothing to show”, “we want water, we want scholarship”.

Giving reasons for the protest one of the women leaders, Madam Aza Ezekiel said, “we have tried to meet with Shell several times on our plight but the company has been dribbling us, trying to avoid us, hence this protest.

We shall continue with the protest until Shell meets our demands. We are not going to allow them access to the bridge here to cross over to their facilities. If they want to fly with helicopter over the community to access the oil wells and flow station, well we have no control over that.

“We have over forty functional oil wells in our land plus the Adibawa flow station. But you can’t believe it that Shell has no regard for us as a community, from where they are taking so much every day.

We cannot stomach it anymore. We drink muddy, crude oil polluted water from the Taylor creek; no pipe borne water here. It is the same with electricity; we live without electricity here in the community.

Besides all these, frequent oil spills have rendered our environment infertile. As you can see from here, the dark smoke rising from the gas flare furnace has also posed a great health related risk to us. Just see it rising [pointing to a thick column of smoke rising from a distance”

“Some of the things we need include: Water, electricity, secondary school, skills acquisition for our people, scholarship and employment of our sons and daughters. With their big, big truck plying the road, Shell has damaged our road.

So the company should repair the road. Unless Shell comes and dialogue with us to agree on these demands we will not let them pass this bridge to their facilities. We have occupied the bridge to drive home our demand from Shell. Before you leave we shall lead you to some of the oil wells if you are interested”

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