By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa –
Exactly seven days after operations at the Kolo Creek Logistics Base owned by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) were disrupted aggrieved indigenes of Oruma, Otuasega, Elebele and Imiringi communities in the Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa State yesterday laid fresh siege to the facility in protest over what they described as the refusal of the oil giant to agree on a time frame to meet their demands.
The protesters who made good their threat to cripple operations at the heavily guarded Shell facility stormed the location in the early hours of the day and prevented vehicles from going in and out of the premises.
They also shut down the manifold supplying gas to Gbarain-Ubie gas plant at Obunagha and a crude oil delivery line to Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
Not even the presence of the combat ready soldiers on guard at the facility could deter the aggrieved natives from massing in front of the facility and chanting “Tunde must go,” Tunde must go” in reference to the company’s Community Liaison Officer whom they accused of resorting to the use of “divide and rule tactics’ with a view to breaking their rank.
“Shell should honour the 1999 agreement, or else, the company is free to leave our environment for us. They should give us light, water, roads and also ensure that their operation within this environment is safe for us and every other living thing in the ecosystem,” declared the Spokesman of the protesters, Pastor Ranami Afagha who is also the Vice Chairman of Imiringi community.
He described as unfortunate a situation where the company would allow their people demand to linger to open protest, “we are not saying SPDC must meet all our demands at once but what we are demanding is a commitment on the time frame these demands would be implemented.”
According to him, they had written several letters and held meetings in relation to an agreement Shell signed with them in 1999 in the Presence of Nigeria’s current President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.
“Shell had agreed then to connect our communities to the plant supplying electricity to their office/facility here in our environment but reneged.”
“We want our communities to be connected to the source of power that supplies them electricity twenty four hours every day. They cannot be taking the crude oil and gas from our environment and enjoy all the benefits and leave us in pristine condition. We know what is happening in other places where such resources are exploited. Apart from the issue of electricity, we are also demanding for good roads linking our communities. Shell should honour the agreement signed with us,” the protesters said.
They also called on the relevant authorities to prevail on Shell to open up the Kolo creek channel to allow free flow of water which was blocked in the course of laying gas pipelines by a firm engaged by the oil giant.
As at the time of departing scene of the protest to file this report, the protesters were still massed in front of the facility while attempt to get the comment of the company CLO, one Mr. Tunde whose removal the protesters were calling for proved abortive as the staff were restricted to the base.
However, it would be recalled that the SPDC Spokesman, Mr. Precious Okolobo had last week reiterated the commitment of the company to the well being of its host communities.
In a statement made available to Vanguard he said, “The Kolo Creek Cluster Development Board was inaugurated in 2007 as part of the GMoU agreed for execution of the Gbaran-Ubie Integrated Oil and Gas Project. A total of N535mn was disbursed to the Board between 2006 – 2010 for the implementation of projects, including civic centres, accommodation quarters for teachers and youth corps members, drainage systems, internal roads, electricity hook-up and guest houses.”
On Electricity it said, “SPDC’s Kolo Creek field logistics base has been supplying electricity to Elebele, Imiringi and Otuasega communities in line with an agreement reached in 1999. However, these communities have since expanded and the demand for power has exceeded the installed capacity.
“As an alternative, SPDC facilitated the hook-up of the communities to the Bayelsa Electricity Supply Board (BESB) grid, and also supplies gas to the BESB gas turbine at Imiringi. The communities have been enjoying stable power from the facility, but it is understood that the plant is currently undergoing major refurbishment.”
On the New GMoU, the company said, “With the completion of Gbaran-Ubie project, communities are being migrated from project GMoU to regular GMoU, and financial allocation to them is now based on production operations and facilities located within the area. We are continuing to engage clusters on the new system. SPDC will continue to work with Kolo Creek communities on implementation of projects in the area.”