Nigerian youths to petition FG, int’l comm. over neglect of Rivers community SPDC, Promises to back community to secure justice

NIGERIAN Youth Leaders have vowed to petition the International
community and Federal Government over alleged neglect of communities
of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State by Shell Petroleum
Development Company. The youth leaders made this call on Friday at
Kula Community during a fact finding visit to the area to ascertain
the level of development in the area. They also promised to back Kula
community in the fight of securing justice against the alleged neglect
by International Oil Companies in the area.
The delegation was led by Amb Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo, President
National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) flanked by Presidents of Ijaw
Youth Council, Arewa Youth Forum, Egbe Igbimo Odo Yoruba (Afenifere),
Greener Nigeria Movement and other eminent Youth Leaders from across
the federation. In the cause of the visitation, it was revealed that
Communities of Kula Kingdom had for over two years opened an
agitation, demanding that Shell divests its facilities in the area,
OML25 and vacates the area for lack of social amenities.
The team which visited Kile Ama 1, Offoinama Community, Belema
community, Kula Town, expressed worries over the level of
underdevelopment in the area. The oil communities had last year August
shut down operation of SPDC on OML25 over alleged neglect by the oil
giant. The women of the communities have continued to mount
surveillance against the scheming of SPDC to secretly sell the OML 25
to another foreign company which negate the demand of the communities
for a right of first refusal before such can be undertaken as the
community crave for an indigenous company to be considered. The women,
who spoke to the team on arrival at the OML25 facility, noted that
their continuous occupation of the facility was a show that SPDC must
leave the area.
Mrs. Olu Ekine, one of the women leaders said: We are here and we have
stayed a year and three months at this facility because of how SPDC is
treating them. Since SPDC operations for over 37 years, they have not
done any meaningful infrastructural development, no school, and no
employment for indigenes who are graduates and no hospitals. “When our
women want to give birth we travel a far distance. As we are
travelling, sometimes the boat will spoil and the person will deliver
inside the boat. Sometimes the baby will die or the mother will die”
However, on arrival, Solomon Gilbert, the leader of Offoinama
community, who conducted the team round the community, told the team
that the communities have not benefitted from SPDC for over 37 years
of their operation in the area. Gilbert said: “Since Shell started
operating here, we have not benefitted. You can see the kind of school
we have here. We built the school on our own. You can see that it is a
batcher school with only mud used on the floor. “They should come and
show us and the public the project they have done in the community. We
do not have water, in fact we have nothing. This is the reason we are
saying that Shell should leave our land.”
Similarly, Ene Jackrich, a native of the area, said: “We did our land
reclamation on our own. We do not have landing jetty. “As school wants
to resume we have to fill the classroom with mud, so that before
classes resume it has dried. “The water we have was brought by UNICEF
in collaboration with government. Since I was born I have not seen any
project by SPDC.
We have seen poverty everywhere – youths
Speaking, Dr. Engr. Udengs Eradiri, the former President of Ijaw Youth
Council, IYC, Worldwide, and Uzoh Ifeanyi – President of Ndigbo Youth
Organisation (19 Northern States) who are part of  the delegation,
said the team has seen the level of poverty in the oil producing
communities, adding that the youths would formally make a report to
the FG. Eradiri said: “We are a fact finding team. We have come and we
have seen things for ourselves and we will do a formal report to the
federal government. “We will not just write the federal government, we
will ensure that we write and meet the international community and the
parent body of SPDC.
“There is need to inform them of the level of injustice perpetrated
against a people that is producing oil. We will come up with a working
document based on what we have seen in the ground in the communities.
“It is unheard of based on reports we got today, that people who host
a big oil firm like Shell do not have good hospital. They do not have
schools, not even pipe born water.”
The President of National Youth Council of Nigeria -Sukubo Sara-Igbe
Sukubo and other Youth Leaders after considering the agitations of the
communities, urged FG to issue the license to operate OML25 to an
indigenous firm, Belemaoil Producing Limited that understands the
plight of people of the region. “We heard that SPDC has spent $300
million but there is no sign of it here. There is no part of the
community that you see anything that shows that Shell has spent such
sum.
“It is time for our people to do oil business. We are calling on the
federal government to give our people to do this business because they
will do better. “Our people must be given first right of refusal.
Belemaoil Producing has shown capacity and should be given the
opportunity.” Kula should be given right of first refusal
Also, the President of Greener Nigeria Movement Comrade AbdulRahman
Agboola expressed concerns over the rate of neglect in the area,
adding that the host community should be given the right to reject
Shell. Agboola said: “The kind of thing I have seen does not befit the
people that contribute heavily to the nation’s economy. “Our call to
the government is that, the people of Kula should be given the right
of first refusal, because they do not need Shell again in their
environment.”
IOCs left us in poverty
Meanwhile, the Secretary of Offoinama Council of Chiefs, Chief Fiala
Tubolabo Fiala, who thanked the team for the intervention, noted that
Kula people are living in abject poverty because of the activities of
SPDC. “We are in abject poverty. That is how the IOCs kept us.
Everything we have is by our own efforts. We happy for your
intervention and we will support you to ensure that we have justice.
“We have no land to build. We know that we will succeed in this fight.
We know that you will take up this matter so that Shell will know that
we have youths in Nigeria.”
SPDC seek peace, dialogue
However, Shell has described the allegations by the women and leaders
of Kula as false, but stated that there was need for dialogue. This
was contained in a statement by the Media Relations Manager, Bamidele
Odugbesan, on behalf of SPDC’s External Relations General Manager, Igo
Weli.
The statement read: “SPDC has also restated its commitment to dialogue
and peaceful resolution of disagreements with the invaders. A group of
people invaded the facilities on August 11, 2017, ejected the staff on
duty and have illegally remained in occupation of the facilities since
then.
“The group has so far rebuffed all entreaties to resolve their
grievances through dialogue but has instead demanded immediate
transfer of ownership and operatorship of the facilities to their
preferred indigenous oil firm, under the pretext that SPDC has over
the years neglected the interests of the local community.
“SPDC believes that all stakeholders in the matter should give the
Rivers State Government-initiated mediation process the chance to
resolve the disagreement peacefully” “Our primary goal is the safe and
peaceful resolution of this dispute, and we encourage all parties to
return to dialogue to protect the safety and security of all concerned
including those occupying the facility, community members, SPDC staff
and contractors.
“SPDC and its Joint Venture partners continue to implement
multi-million Naira social investment programmes to the benefit of the
people of Kula Kingdom, in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers
State, notwithstanding that the company has not been allowed to
operate the facilities since the illegal occupation began 13 months
ago.”
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