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FRESH TROUBLE BREWS IN RIVERS, NIGERIA’s OIL STATE, OVER SHELL

PHXNews: FRESH TROUBLE BREWS IN RIVERS, NIGERIA’s OIL STATE, OVER SHELL

“Nobody this time around can stop us. Enough is enough. I don’t think it is our place to be begging oil companies to live up to their social responsibility. Shell is simply wicked…”

Monday 22 August 2005

AKANIMO SAMPSON BUREAU CHIEF, PORT HARCOURT

FRESH communal problem is currently brewing at Bille, in Degema Local Government Area of Nigeria’s Rivers State, where the community youths are locked in confrontation with Shell, a transnational oil and gas supermajor.

Bille youths recently shut down Shell flowstations in the area, claiming that the community has no tangible development project to show for the over four decades of the oil giants’ operations in their territory. This time around, they are alleging that the oil company was no longer enthusiastic about the “agreement” they reached with them on the socio-economic development of Bille.

But the oil company in a swift reaction denied the charge, alleging that they are being blackmailed by the community youths. “Our negotiation with the community is still on course”, the company said.

When Bille youths shut down Shell’s two flow stations in the area last July, it took the intervention of the Rivers State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Clapton Ogolo, for a ceasefire pact to be reached.

During Ogolo’s trouble-shooting shuttles, he had expressed surprise that Shell had failed to live up to the community’s expectations. The had accordingly blamed the oil supermajor for the face-off between it and the community youths.

In the meantime, the Bille Chairman of Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Socrates Dokubo, says their patience as the oil company is allegedly not doing anything to show that they want to continue their crude oil business in an atmosphere of peace. “They are yet to respond to our demands, among which is employing our qualified people”, he said.

While commending the Rivers State government for the ceasefire truce that was brokered by Ogolo, the Bille youths leader said it seems the only language that Shell clearly understands is violence.

Although the oil company is insisting that they are talking with the community, the youths on their part are claiming that justice delayed is justice denied. “Once the current situation boils over, we will have no other option than to shutdown every flow station around and within Bille”, the IYC chief said.

Already, the central leadership of the orgnised Ijaw youths has been reportedly briefed on the simmering problem between Shell and the Bille youths. And from the claims of Dokubo, IYC has pledged to support the Bille people to get justice.

“Nobody this time around can stop us. Enough is enough. I don’t think it is our place to be begging oil companies to live up to their social responsibility. Shell is simply wicked, and that is our perception of the”, the obviously angry Bille youth leader said.

This is happening as human rights and pro-democracy groups operating in the oil and gas region, are currently bracing to remember the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was allegedly killed for trying to make the worsening poverty in the oil region history.

Saro-Wiwa, was killed 10 years ago in November 1995, by the then Nigerian military dictatorship, along with eight other Ogoni activists. They were sentenced to death by hanging.

Co-ordinator of Pan Niger Delta Action Council (PANDAC), a coalition of community and civil society groups, behind the planned remembrance, Mr. Isaac Osuoka, told Daily Independent after their strategic meeting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, that the peoples of the oil region hold the view that Saro-Wiwa was killed for insisting that Nigeria was not a poor country.

“The active social formations in the Niger Delta have now come to the conclusion that political decisions made in the interests of western transnational corporations are keeping the peoples of the oil region in desperate poverty”, Osuoka.

Adding, he said Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the huge oil wealth of the Niger Delta “must” leave behind more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid air and crumbling schools. “He did not ask for charity, pity or relief, but for socio-economic, political and environmental justice.”

The PANDAC chief spoke even as the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) is still demanding that the Anglo-Dutch supermajor, Shell, should compensate the people from whose land it had pumped around N4.35 trillion, some $30 billion worth of oil since the 1950s.

From Mosop, 10 years Saro-Wiwa was killed, 70 percent of Nigerians (some 85 million) are allegedly still living on less than N145 a day “while Shell is busy making super-profits”, claiming that it is the tremendous profitability of the current resource control that keeps the peoples of the Niger Delta poor.

Ogoni activist, Patrick Naagbanta, had this to say, “Saro-Wiwa died fighting that the resources of the land should be used to benefit the people of that land.”

Our correspondent however, reports that sub-saharan Africa which appears to be the poorest place on earth, also seems to be the oil industry’s most profitable investment destination. According to the World Bank’s 2003 Global Development Finance report, the continent offers “the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world.”

Social critic and researcher with the Port Harcourt based Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS), Dr. Sofiri Joab-Peterside, said, “like the Niger Delta, Africa is still poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably rich.” ENDS.

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