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Vanguard (Nigeria): Shell to relocate to Lagos as fear grips oil workers

By Hector Igbikiowubo & Emma Arubi
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

LAGOS — OIL and gas industry exploration and production operators have served notice that an increase in militant attacks in the Niger Delta area may be imminent especially following advice from the British Home Office urging its nationals to leave Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) may also be considering relocating its Nigeria headquarters from Port Harcourt to Lagos on account of the order from the British home office.

A Shell staff who pleaded anonymity said the organisation could not function seamlessly without the input of key personnel. “Management will not stop these key personnel from leaving the area in line with advice from the British authorities,” he said, adding: “Under the circumstances, I believe the only option left to the management is to move the corporate headquarters back to Lagos. This is a veritable option. I don’t see any other at the moment.”

Contacted however, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke, External Relations Director of SPDC, said she was not aware of any plan of the company to relocate its headquarters from Port Harcourt for any consideration whatsoever.

The advice from the British Home Office, she said, was for its nationals to leave the three states in question and came only a few days ago, adding that the company was currently considering how and if it would impact its operations.

“The decision on whether or not to leave is an individual thing. If your question is whether we would prevent any of our staff from leaving these areas, the answer is no, we wouldn’t,” she said.
Information from oil and gas industry operators in Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Warri, however, indicates that the operator companies were afraid that militants might step up their attacks.

Vanguard gathered that their fear was fuelled by the advice from the British Home Office. There are indications that the American authorities may also urge their nationals to leave the area based on the recent Supreme Court decision denying the bail application of Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF).

Omehia decries SPDC’s planned exit from Rivers

Meanwhile, Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers State has expressed concern over the planned relocation of Shell from Port Harcourt to Lagos.

Addressing a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt, Omehia said the development was  another evidence of the dangerous dimension the activities of militants and hostage takings had  assumed in the area.
He cautioned: “If Shell, a major oil company in Nigeria pulls out of Rivers, other subsidiary  companies which have relationship with it will also pull out.”

The governor warned that the consequences of such pullout would worsen unemployment, poverty and hunger in the state and have an adverse effect on economic growth. Omehia appealed to the people to assist government with information that could help stem the scourge of hostage taking in the state.
He commended the people of Eleme who protested last week over the kidnapping of  workers of Eleme Petrochemicals Company (Indorama). “This is the first time the people are openly demonstrating their disapproval of the kidnap menace,” Omehia, whose mother was a recent victim, said.

He declared: “The kidnappers appear to be operating for selfish reasons rather than fighting the Niger Delta cause. The truth is that kidnapping has become a business and no more a fight for the  emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta and the economic development of the region,” and warned that his administration would not spare anyone involved in the act.

Shell sacks 6 managers

In Warri, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has declared a production crisis and sacked six managers even as it imposed severe restriction on business travels in and out of Nigeria except for those that have direct contribution to their top seven assets.

Vanguard gathered that the next group of  SPDC staff to go in the current production crisis are those in Group 3 and others, thus, causing apprehension among the work force.

The cause of the sack, according to a company official, is that operations in the East has continued to suffer frequent setbacks due to the security environment and increasing level of sabotage on pipelines, saying production is currently about 690,000 barrels per day as against a target of 780,000 b/d and that radical measures must be put in place to bridge the gap.

It was further revealed that besides the impending sack, travel restriction could be further tightened depending on directives from the DMD/MD on travels across the entire company.

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