Following the shutdown of oil facilities belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) at its Belema oil field in Rivers State, some communities were allegedly invaded by men of the Joint Task Force on the Niger Delta over the weekend.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) who disclosed this yesterday, condemned the invasion saying the action of the JTF could have led to a bloodbath had it not being wisely handled by community leaders.
PANDEF in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said that the communities were invaded by JTF men operating in five naval gunboats and seven speed boats following disagreement between the oil company and the host communities.
The statement also accused the chairman of the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Roland Sekibo, of acting in connivance with Shell against the interest of the people, adding that his handling of the issues was wrong.
“PANDEF believes the Council Chairman has been bribed and funded by SPDC to induce crisis, trouble and infighting for the sole purpose of intimidating, suppressing and arm twisting the people of Kula Kingdom, the host communities of OML 25 (Belema Oil Field) into subjugation.
Sara-Igbe lamented that but for divine intervention there would have been a blood bath. “The actions of the local government chairman would have ignited unimaginable crisis between the peace loving communities of Abonnema and Kula, which is capable of resulting into loss of lives, property and critical national infrastructures worth billions of dollars.”
He said that the chairman’s actions “shows he is naive and ignorant, and incapable of handing critical, sensitive and explosive issues bothering on the global oil and gas politics,” even as he “enjoins the council boss to apply wisdom and understanding in handling delicate and sensitive issues such as shutting down of oil and gas facilities by host communities.”
Sara-Igbe said the crisis began after the communities of Belema, Offoinama, Ngeje, Kilama, Diaba, Okoama, amongst other host communities, met and after reviewing their relationship with Shell, made several unsuccessful attempts to convince the company to reconsider their corporate social responsibility in past 60 years in the Kula Kingdom and 37 years in OML 25, with a view to improving on the quality of life of the people and the environment which they operate.
“Before the shutdown, the communities of Belema, Offoinama and Ngeje communities complained to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and PANDEF in writing, complaining how SPDC has refused to carry out their corporate social responsibility for over 40 years and the non-implementation of the GMOU signed between the communities and them since 2005.”
Upon the receipt of their letter of complaint, the National Leader of PANDEF Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, wrote to the then Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo and copied the Minister of State Petroleum, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The then Acting President directed the GMD to address the matter and to quickly facilitate a meeting for the resolution of all the issues leading to the shutdown of the flow station.
“The meeting started well but ended in a deadlock because Shell walked out of the meeting. Shell didn’t only truncate the first meeting, but never showed up for the 2nd and 3rd meetings. Sundry allegations leveled against Shell and the vocal and vehement demand of the host communities to have the meeting moved to the host communities, where the oil and gas is being produced was rebuffed by Shell.”
PANDEF said that it was in the midst of these that the chairman played an inglorious part. He appealed to the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, and the Amayanabo of Abonnema to call the chairman to order before his actions plunges the local government area in particular and the entire Niger Delta Region into another round of avoidable catastrophe.
The PANDEF statement insisted that ”SHELL is known the world over for her divide and rule antics which are at the heart of the sorrow, anguish, wailing and regrets that has become the lot of most of the oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta. Her roles in the infamous Ogoni and Kula crises which claimed hundreds of lives is still fresh in the mind of Niger Deltans, Nigerians and the International community’s at large.
“The people of kula are no strangers to Shell’s antics, hence their common resolve to banish SPDC from further operation in their territory. They are consequently appealing to the Department of Petroleum Resources, NAPIMS, NNPC and the Federal Government of Nigeria not to renew the lease of OML 25 in 2019 in favour of SPDC. The people of Kula Kingdom insist they are willing to protect their land with the very last drop of their blood against SPDC’s inhuman exploitation in any of the five oil blocks within the Kula territory.
Sara-Igbe cried that “PANDEF do not understand, why the SPDC and the Chairman of the Akuku-toru LGA is bent on creating more problem for the people, government and the security agencies, if there is no hidden agenda.”