15 January 2017, Warri — The recent move by Shell Petroleum Development Company’s, SPDC, to repair the export pipeline at Forcados Terminal has pitted it against its three host communities, who have threatened war in the area.
SPDC had awarded the repairs of the 48-inches export pipeline to a local contractor, HydroDive Nigeria Limited, a move the three communities said was against the Local Content Act.
Some officials and members of the three communities: Odimodi, Beniboye and Isiayegbene, all in Burutu Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, therefore stormed HydroDive’s head office at Wharf Road, Apapa, Lagos to first stage a peaceful protest as a warning signal.
The protesters, who blocked part of Hydrodive office at 17, Wharf Road, Apapa, threatened to disrupt the ongoing repairs if the contractor failed to evacuate its equipment, which have been in the Odimodi, Beniboye and Isiayegbene since last December.
Accusing SPDC and Hydrodive of using impostors from different areas as Community Liaison Officers (CLO) and neglecting their people, they vowed that they would take action if the Federal Government ignored their protest.
While flaying the “militarisation” of their communities, notwithstanding, they said it would not deter them from demanding justice.
Bearing placards with inscriptions such as “SPDC stop creating crises in our community; SPDC/Hydrodive we are not fools; give us our rights; federal government come to our aid; Our youths are jobless, our river is polluted; SPDC/Hydrodive follow the Local Content Act”, they appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the companies to do the right thing.
Reading a resolution signed by the chairmen and other executives of the three communities, the Chairman and Public Relations Officer of Odimodi Community, Chief Sapark Obaila and Hon. Bibaikefie Ebi respectively, said SPDC sidelined the people.
They said they were sidelined especially during SPDC’s Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) and neglected their request that a competent firm owned by a member of the community be awarded the contract.
They said: “Odimodi and its federated communities are the owners of 100 per cent of the land where the 48 inches export pipeline is located.
“But instead of having dealings with the communities, SPDC and Hydrodive decided to use impostors as CLOs. Our youths are jobless.
“Our people are poor and hungry because the exploration activities of the SPDC Nigeria Limited have polluted our lands and waters, deprived us of our means of livelihood, as we can no longer go to farm or fish.
“SPDC of Nigeria Limited has over the years treated our communities with gross disdain irrespective of the stark poverty that has engulfed our communities as a result of oil exploration activities, despite the quantum of oil reserves lying beneath our land.
“For over 50 years of the existence of SPDC in Odimodi, Beniboye and Isiayegbene communities, all the CLOs of SPDC working in the Forcados Terminal are non-indigenes of Odimodi, Beniboye and Isiayegbene communities.
“Despite the high number of qualified graduates of Odimodi, Beniboye and Isiayegbene origin, for over 50 years of the existence of SPDC in our communities no indigene has ever been employed as a staff.
“SPDC has constantly deprived qualified indigenous contractors the opportunity of handling projects of reasonable consideration, such as the repair of the 48 inches export pipeline.
” It has limited us to cutting of grasses and cleaning of toilets, while the juicy jobs are given to their family members, friends, surrogates and themselves vide crony companies.
“We resolved to embark on this peaceful protest to tell Hydrodive to evacuate their equipment from our communities.
“We have unanimously resolved that any contract to be awarded by SPDC as it affects our communities, should give credence first to indigenous contractors with the requisite technical know-how and equipment to execute such contract.
“That way, employment and wealth would be created for our impoverished people.
“When the pipeline developed leakages, the community wrote SPDC recommending an indigenous contractor for the repair contract.
“It is usually the practice of oil companies, including SPDC to conduct joint investigation with the host communities when there is spillage in order to ascertain the cause.
“But in an attempt to divert the contract to a company they have vested interest, some officials of SPDC secretly carried out a joint investigation without involving our communities.
“They came out with a doctored report that was against the interest of the communities, which are hosting the 48 inches export pipeline.
“While the communities were still awaiting the award of the contract to the recommended contractor, we were invaded by heavily armed military officers, who accompanied equipment brought into our communities by Hydrodive for the repairs of the 48 inches export pipeline.
“Hydrodive didn’t deem it necessary to liaise with the host communities, before moving its equipment into our communities to execute a contract with a work force brought from outside our communities.
“We are strongly opposed to SPDC awarding the contract to Hydrodive.
They should move their equipment out of our communities with immediate effect. Otherwise we shall vehemently resist it.
” Also, all the CLOs of SPDC currently working in the Forcados Terminal should be sacked and replaced with indigenes of host communities.
“We are not asking for ransom, all we are asking for, is that we want to work, we want this contract to be awarded to our recommended indigenous contractor, which we believe will create massive employment for our teeming and unemployed youths.
“It will also alleviate our already impoverished people from the bondage of excruciating and demonic poverty for the duration of the contract.”
Addressing reporters at his office after the protest, the legal counsel for the three communities and rights activist, Festus Keyamo gave a week ultimatum for SPDC and Hydrodive to halt operations and call a meeting with the genuine community leaders for peace to reign.
Keyamo vowed to use all legitimate means possible to ensure that the injustice against them was stopped.
Reacting to the protest, Hydrodive said it was directed by SPDC to deal with Ogunlayan, the host community of Forcados Terminal.
The company’s Deputy Managing Director, Frank Ifedi and the company’s Security Adviser, Rear Admiral James Bowal (rtd), said they had meetings with representatives from Ogunlayan community and were given freedom to operate, adding that the protesters should channel their grievances to SPDC.
They said: “If there are ill feelings, the people should channel it to SPDC. We were directed by SPDC to meet Ogunlayan community and that’s the host community we know. We have been dealing with them.
“We didn’t pick who to deal with, it was SPDC that referred us to them. We have fully complied with the Local Content Act and we have no problems with Ogunlayan community.”
*Chiemelie Ezeobi – Thisday