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Nigeria: Niger Delta communities said preparing to protest against oil giant

BBC Monitoring Service: Nigeria: Niger Delta communities said preparing to protest against oil giant

26 May 2005

 

Excerpt from report by John Iwori entitled “13 oil communities protest against Shell” published by Nigerian newspaper This Day website on 25 May; subheading inserted editorially;

 

The abandonment of phase II of the Imiringi -Nembe road project, being embarked upon by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has sparked off a gale of demonstrations in 13 host communities in the Niger Delta region.

 

This Day checks revealed that the operations of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant in the region might be jeopardized if the protests continue.

 

Already the chiefs, elders, women groups and youths in the communities are mobilizing for a showdown with SPDC if the company failed to commence work on the Otuegila-Nembe road project. By SPDC’s estimation, the road project which started in 2002 would be completed December this year.

 

Communities not benefiting – protesters

 

Addressing protesters at Emago-Kugbo in Abua/Odual local government area of Rivers State, during a visit by the leadership of a pressure group, Oturegila-Nembe Road Project Forum, led by its chairman, Chief D.K. Derri, a spokesman of the affected communities in Rivers State, Engineer Ferguson Tobins, lamented that though Emago-Kugbo was used as the first crude oil loading base in Nigeria by SPDC in 1957, there was nothing to show for it.

 

Tobins who is a university lecturer, said the Emago-Kugbo communities which have hosted SPDC for over five decades have rather been impoverished by the company’s oil and gas operations. He said that the only community development project that could benefit majority of stakeholders in the area was the Otuegila-Nembe road project and that failure by Shell to commence work on it would mean that the oil giant was no longer interested in her oil and gas activities in the communities.

 

At Otuegila, the spokesman for the community, Chief Alabo Mac Moses, while addressing the protesters, said that “sometime ago people came to this community to inform us that SPDC wanted to construct a road from the Otuegila through Idema to Nembe, so we were very happy. They later came to do the survey, and assessment about three years ago, yet nothing has been done on the proposed road”.

 

Moses said SPDC having gained so much denied the community any form of development, adding that this time the community would not tolerate it any more.

 

Barrister Collins Daniel, who spoke on behalf of Idema community cautioned the protesters against violence and wanton destruction of oil facilities in the area.

 

He, however, regretted that SPDC had been unfair to the communities despite the fact that its oil and gas activities have devastated the environment and destroyed the socio-cultural system in the area.

 

Daniel said “we have continued to show this maturity, we shall continue, but one thing which I want to assure all of you is that there are other projects Shell is trying to undertake in this area. They have undertaken exploration at Santa Barbara, they have undertaken exploration at Soku Gas Plant, they have undertaken a number of other things within and around our communities.

 

“There is still the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGSII), a gas gathering project which Shell wants to undertake. It is believed to be passing through our communities. We will not allow Shell to undertake this project until it starts the construction of the proposed Otuegila-Nembe road project”. [Passage omitted]

 

Also addressing protesters in Oluosiri Clan, the Public Relations Officer of the Forum, Hon. Opusiri Noah Otobo, representing Nembe constituency III in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly cautioned the protesters against violence and wanton destruction of oil and gas facilities in the area. [Passage omitted]

 

Efforts to get Shell comments proved abortive as the Head of the Yenagoa office of SPDC Mr Fidelis Agbiki was not on seat when This Day called.

 

However, a statement posted on SPDC website read that “work progressed on both phases of the 100m-dollar Imiringi-Nembe Road. This is our largest community road project which, when completed, will connect 12 major communities to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

 

Source: This Day website, Lagos, in English 25 May 05

 

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