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Protesters shut Shell office in Warri

BBC Monitoring Service: Nigeria

Posted 23 May 2005

Text of report report by Chido Okafor entitled “Protesters shut Shell office in Warri” published by Nigerian newspaper The Guardian website on 21 May

Protesters numbering about 1,000 yesterday afternoon paralysed operations at the Warri office of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), forcing the firm to close all its entry points, apparently scared the protest would turn violent.

The protesters who are indigenes of the firm’s over 50 host communities in Delta State claim the oil giant had relocated the company’s ” strategic” departments from Warri to Port Harcourt, in Rivers State.

The protesters besieged the firm’s locations in Edjeba, Ogunu, and Ekurede-Urhobo as early as 7.00 a.m. and ensured that none of the firm’s staff entered the premises to work. Workers who reported for duty yesterday morning were forced home, as they could not gain entry into their offices.

Many of the protesters including some prominent persons, aged men and women and youths carried placards with several inscriptions condemning Shell’s action.

According to Mrs Glory Ayiwe, leader of the SPDC host communities and secretary of the Elder’s Council, Ven. Michael Udi, who spoke to reporters at the Ogunu gate of Shell, said the decision by the firm to relocate key offices to Port Harcourt tended to create the impression that the Western areas were inferior to their counterparts in the Eastern areas.

“Your (Shell) decision to move everything to the east was premeditated and too hasty, because communal crisis such as the one in Warri is not entirely abnormal in cosmopolitan societies and indeed not peculiar to Delta State or Western operational area of Shell”, they said.

The Guardian learnt the firm had moved such departments as finance/treasury and minor and major contracts recruitment/procurement and logistics to Port Harcourt, an action which the protesters said had made their Warri office a mere structure without powers, and by and large of no commercial value to the host communities.

Early this year, Shell’s new managing director, Basil Omiyi, at meeting with Governor James Ibori, in Warri, said the firm had no plans to relocate from Warri and that activities would be intensified in the area.

The protesters described the action of Shell as “oppressive and unfriendly”.

Shell’s external relations manager, western division, Mr Harriman Oyofo who addressed the protesters in the company of some of the firms’ senior officers confirmed being in possession of a document containing all the grievances of the protesters. He added that he would forward them to the firm. He praised the protesters for their peaceful conduct.

Source: The Guardian website, Lagos, in English 21 May 05

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