Eromosele Abiodun in Lagos
The Rivers State Youth Federation (RSYF) Saturday advised Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to shelve its plan to relocate its headquarters to Lagos.
RSYF, an umbrella body of youths in the state, warned that decision of the oil giant to relocate to Lagos could stoke massive job loss among the youths in the host communities.
They expressed this concern while protesting at the Logistics Base of SNEPCO against the company’s plan to relocate its business operations to Lagos, even amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The youths lamented that RSYF staged a similar protest in September 2018 in collaboration with the Onne Youth Council (OYC).
The President of RSYF, Saviour Patrick, who led the peaceful protest, lamented that SNEPCO’s relocation from Rivers State would lead to significant job loss and render youths idle.
It was observed that the protesting youths observed strict social distancing and wore nose masks during the protest.
In its letter of protest, the group said its attention “has been drawn to your recent plans of relocating to Lagos State of Nigeria from Onne Port in spite COVID-19 lockdown without informing your host community in a clear term as to your reason.”
The letter, which was signed by Patrick and RSYF Secretary General, Bishop Abhili Tam, said the firm took similar step in September 2018, against which the youths in the state protested citing the consequences of such decision.
The letter said: “We vehemently protested in our great numbers and which took the intervention of the Director of DSS Rivers State Command and HRM Ateke Michael Tom to avert. This development therefore is worrisome.
“We wish to refresh your memory that after the intervention by the two aforementioned authorities, certain resolutions were made at the Conference Hall of the DSS Rivers State Command in the presence of your company representatives, DSS Director, NPA representatives, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) representatives and other, we suspended our protest.
“We now wonder why you are intentionally violating all the resolutions made during that meeting and shortly after the protest was halted.
“We therefore, in strong terms, condemn the inhuman and inconsiderate move by SNEPCO to leave Onne Port, Rivers State at this critical time when we are all working to combat a common enemy of human existence.
“We wish to appeal that you reverse your decision of leaving the shores of Rivers State as such attempt will be protested by Rivers youths and you shall be held responsible if there be any breakdown of law and order, which may be the resultant effect of your planned relocation to Lagos State.
“However, if you think that your planned relocation is logical, subject it therefore to dialectical examination. In other words, there should be a roundtable discussion to x-ray your reasons for relocating to Lagos State without due consultation with your host communities.
“Any attempt to violate the content of this letter shall also have a commensurate reciprocity from the Rivers State Youth Federation cum COVID-19 Presidential order on social distancing.”
The protesting youths, who claimed that as much as 5,000 direct and indirect jobs could be lost in Rivers State to the planned relocation, carried various placards at the SNEPCO logistics base located within the Onne Port at the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.
Some of the placards read: “SNEPCO do you hate us this much?”, Rivers State is more peaceful than Lagos. Why leave?”, “SNEPCO why?” “SNEPCO please don’t make life tougher for Rivers youths.”
The protesters also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to prevail on SNEPCO to stop the planned relocation.