Members of the Belema and Offoin-Ama communities in Rivers State this morning shut down operations by oil giant, Shell, at the Belema flow-station known as OML 25. The flow-station is located within the communities’ land in Kula Kingdom in Akuku Toru local government area of the state.
Some 1500 women, youths, and chiefs from the two communities marched down to the flow-station to protest what they described as Shell’s “obnoxious acts” and the underdevelopment of their communities. Raising a familiar complaint by inhabitants of the impoverished swamplands that produce most of Nigeria's oil, the protesters said they had received no benefits from the region's oil wealth. They demanded an end to the oil pollution that has ruined much of their land.
Godson Egbelekuro Opueze, a traditional ruler of Ingeje Town in Belema community, remarked, “Our agitation here this morning is to draw attention to the neglect and disdainful treatment meted out against us. As you can see, the environment has no development. It is simply bushy and polluted.” He added, “We have played host to Shell for more than 35 years. We have nothing on the ground here to show for it. We have no infrastructures, no development to show in our community. As you may be aware, the oil companies are moving into offshore production. It is so pathetic that where they operated for 35 years is not developed. We are still here in a terrible situation and we are forced to come and agitate so Shell should leave and a better company can come and handle the operation, particularly Belema oil, which the community is clamoring for another company to take over.”
Anthony George, a youth in the community, told our correspondent, “I have been a graduate for about eight years and have no job. Shell won't employ me and we have abundant wealth in my backyard. Did they want us to go into militancy? Shell has failed us. We lack every amenity in our communities. Let them go and allow a capable hand to run the place.
Some of our neighbors with oil are enjoying.”
The Belema flow-station produces about 35 barrels of crude oil per day. The protesters have vowed to continue their resistance until Shell quits their land for another prospective local company.