By Ejiofor Alike
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has raised the alarm that the continued illegal occupation of Belema flow station and gas plant in Rivers State since August 11, 2017, has safety implications both for the people at the facilities and nearby communities.
According to a statement issued yesterday by SPDC spokesman, Mr. Bamidele Odugbesan, the company said it was â€œdeeply concerned that unauthorised persons, including women and children, have been observed in close proximity to equipment that process crude oil and gas without the protection of safety clothing that is mandatory for people working in or accessing such restricted areas.â€
Shell said it had carried out an emergency shutdown of production ahead of the illegal occupation, but has been unable to access the facilities since then to ensure a safe shutdown over a prolonged period.
â€œThe continued illegal occupation for many days exposes people at the plant to higher safety risks as anything could trigger a spill or fire with potentially serious consequences,â€ the statement added.
The company added that it would remain committed to the development of the Niger Delta, especially host communities including Belema and Kula.
â€œThe SPDC JV partners have contributed $29 billion to the economic growth of Nigeria between 2012 and 2016. The SPDC JV is also currently supporting various Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) Cluster Development Boards in the Niger Delta and mentoring NGOs to deploy a total of N7 billion for development projects of host communitiesâ€™ choice under the GMoU programme,â€ Odugbesan added.
The company had earlier decried the illegal occupation and had also informed the relevant authorities.
Debunking allegations of neglect of communities in Kula kingdom and Belema, Shell said it had implemented a GMoU in the area that led to a wide variety of social investment projects including university scholarships awards.
It explained that the Rivers State Government initiated a mediation process for the resolution of disagreements in the community, which had resulted in the creation of the Kula Project Implementation and Monitoring Committee (PIMC) in 2012.
The PIMC served as an interim platform for the delivery of social investment initiatives and programmes worth N263 million in the Soku-San Berth Project. These projects are separate from the GMoU projects initiated by communities using funds provided by the SPDC JV.
A GMoU was eventually signed in 2014 for the Kula Cluster but Shell said it had not been implemented because of continuing intra-community disagreements.
According to the company, as at 2015, there were a total of 11 court cases involving different groups with SPDC as a co-defendant in all of them.