Port Harcourt — The Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, over alleged persistent harassment by the Police over the oil spill compensation released by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited to the community.
Recall that in 2020 the Court had ordered SPDC to pay a cumulative compensation of N285billion to Ejama-Enugu Community following a devastating oil spill from the company’s facility which destroyed the community’s ecosystem in the late 1970s during the civil war.
SweetCrude Reports gathered that Shell and the community eventually reached an out-of-court settlement, and the sum of N45billion was released by the Dutch oil firm to the community in 2021.
While the legal counsel to the Ejama-Ebubu community got half of the money, having represented the community for 31years without payment, the sum of N23billion went to the community.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Counsel to Ejama-Ebubu Community, Barr. Ayodele Salami, said when the community received the N23billion, a 13-man Disbursement Committee was setup to distribute the the sum of N5million each to every member of the community and also carried out road construction projects in the community.
Salami disclosed that some disgruntled members of the community, after receiving their share of the money, resorted to using the police to intimidate and harass members of the Committee, including the community chief, Chief Peter Oguru.
He said the harassment began since June 2022, the community went to court and got a judgement by Justice Phoebe Ayua of the federal high court on 31st August 2022, which ruled that the 13-man committee should not be subjected to any form of police harassment.
The lawyer wondered why the police has refused to obey the court judgement.
“On Friday December 2nd at 7pm policemen stormed the palace of Chief Peter Oguru and forcefully tried to arrest him. The police humiliated and rubbished him and the traditional stool, but for the swift intervention of the community women, they police eventually dropped an invitation letter and left.
“This same chief had ordered the payment of N5miilion to every indigene if the community from money paid to the community by Shell.
“This persistent harassment began since June 2022. Many members of the Committee have been arrested by the police at one point or the other. Some were invited arrested and kept in custody for over four days.
“Our appeal is that the Nigerian Police should respect the rule of law. There is a court judgement on ground barring the police from intimidating members of the Committee.
“We have petitioned the IGP and the Rivers State Commissioner of Police. The letter to the CP has been delivered and that of the IGP should get to him this week because we sent it by courier. We had to petition the IG and CP because they are not aware of what the police is doing in Ejama-Ebubu community.”
Also speaking, a member of the Committee, Chief Hope Ollornwi, said the people using police to intimidate the community are doing so because they want to be incorporated into the 13-man committee and also to forcefully get contracts, even when they have no capacity to handle road constructions.
Ollornwi gave the names of the people using the police to intimidate the community as Harry Akara, Solomon Ogosu, John Oguru, Samuel Kattey, Onorwi Oluka.
He further traced the historical origin of the funds to the oil spills in the community from Shell facility in the 1980s, of which the community has been in court with Shell since 1983 and later in 1991, and eventually got judgement of N10billion compensation in their favour in the late 90s.
According to him, Shell failed to pay the N10billion compensation then, while the compound interest on the money grew to N285billion in 2021 when the Supreme Court order Shell to pay the community.
“Shell came for an out of court settlement and the sum of N45billion was released for the community. Half of the money went to the legal counsel who has been handling the case without a dime from the community for 30years, N23billion came to the community.
“From this N23billion, we have paid over 4,000 members of the community including children the sum of N5million each. We have also constructed 8.5km roads within the community.”
Follow us on twitter