08 August 2018, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — Thousands of youths under the auspices of Onne Youths Council, OYC, have staged a peaceful protest against alleged plans by the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCo, to move its logistics supply base from the Oil and Gas Free Zone in Onne, Rivers State to Lagos.
The protesting youths, with placards bearing various inscriptions, called on the relevant authorities to intervene in the matter, saying the planned relocation will lead to the loss of more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Leader of the protest and President of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, said SNEPCo last week surreptitiously directed that all its property and equipment including turbines, engine spares and miscellaneous equipment be loaded into containers and moved out of the Onne Port, where it had operated for more than 20 years, to another port in Lagos.
Tenwa also said no fewer than 15,000 people have already lost their jobs at the Onne Port and the Oil and Gas Free Zone as a result of the economic downturn in the country, while appealing to SNEPCo not to compound the situation with the relocation of their Supply Base to Lagos, as it will negatively affect the economy of the state and the region.
According to him, “We are here today to draw the attention of the Nigerian government and indeed the world to the plan by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) to relocate its Supply Base from the Onne Port to Lagos”.
He added: “This move by SNEPCo has serious and far-reaching implications for the Onne community and indeed the entire Rivers State. This is because SNEPCo, which is the operator of the Bonga field, at present, supports more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs at its Supply Base in Onne. There are also several small businesses and contractors whose businesses and fortunes are tied to SNEPCo.
“It will also put the means of livelihood of many families and the future of our children at risk as well as further swell the burgeoning unemployment market in the Niger Delta region.
“SNEPCo suppliers and vendors are based in the communities around Onne and in the larger Niger Delta region. The suppliers and vendors deliver various items and supplies to the SNEPCo Supply Base in Onne. The planned relocation of the Supply Base to Lagos will directly affect not just the company’s staff but also these suppliers and vendors.”
Tenwa said while the Federal Government and state governments in the South-South region have worked hard to ensure peace in the region, the relocation of SNEPCo to Lagos has the potential of jeopardizing the peace currently being enjoyed in the region.
“Also, we are all aware of the huge congestion in Lagos Port and the underutilization of the Rivers Port, Port Harcourt and Onne Port. The ports in Lagos are bursting at the seams and the Apapa gridlock, which has practically hampered vehicular movement in Lagos, is clear evidence of this.
“As a result, the Federal Government has expressed its readiness to revive operations at the Port Harcourt, Onne and other ports in the South-South. Why then is SNEPCo not complementing this effort? What does it stand to gain by suddenly abandoning a community that has hosted its Supply Base and given it unequalled support for more than 20 years?
“In more than two decades, we never had cause to disturb or disrupt the activities of SNEPCo or any other company operating in our communities. We therefore do not deserve to be abandoned unceremoniously at this trying time by SNEPCo,” Tenwa said.