06 July 2015, Lagos – The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and its Joint Venture partners have commenced the second phase of the grass roots campaign against crude oil theft and illegal refining activities in Ogoniland.
“The 2015 campaign is targeted at Ogoni youths for whom we have designed some alternative empowerment programmes such as the Ogoni Livewire, which in January trained 105 Ogoni youths in different skills and offered them start-up funds and support,” the Managing Director, SPDC and Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor, was quoted as saying in the statement.
“We are, therefore, focusing on raising awareness among youths on the environmental, socio-economic and health risks associated with crude oil theft and sabotage of pipelines,” Okunbor said, adding that the initiative was in collaboration with the Rivers State Government and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency.
The statement also quoted the Director, Inspectorate and Enforcement, Rivers State Ministry of Environment, Mr. Charles George, as commending the people for their efforts towards reducing pipeline vandalism.
He said meaningful development could only take place in Ogoniland if crude oil theft activities were halted, adding that the government was working with relevant stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme report.
“Crude oil theft and artisanal refining are criminal acts that are not only against the law but capable of mortgaging the future of the community,” a principal environmental scientist, who represented the Zonal Director of NOSDRA, Rivers State, Mr. Melvin Ododo, was also quoted as saying.
An Ogoni monarch, Barnabas Bagia, said that the campaign had the blessing of the council of elders in the area.
Bagia, who was represented by one of his chiefs, Pegior Raphael, added that the elders were doing all they could to educate the youths against crude theft that was causing the communities untold hardships.
The Ogoni Restoration Project Manager, SPDC, Mr. Augustine Igbuku, said the campaign was vital to the implementation of the UNEP report, which recommended, among others, that Ogoni communities should take actions to stop further environmental pollution resulting from crude oil theft and illegal oil refining.
“The response to the first phase last year has been very encouraging. We hope that the people will seize the opportunity to join the crusade against crude oil theft and artisanal refining in Ogoniland,” he said.
The campaign against crude oil theft in Ogoniland will run for six months and will be delivered in 12 open-air sessions by Ogoni professionals and government agencies to reach a wide range of community stakeholders.