Residents of Belema and Offoin-Ama communities are on the seventh day of their shutdown of an oil flow station known as OML 25 and owned by Shell Oil Company. Members of the two communities shut down the flow station, located in Kula kingdom in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, to protest what they described as the oil firm’s role in the underdevelopment of their areas. The communities insist that Shell quit their land and make room for a prospective local company.
The Belema flow-station produces about 42,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It has remained shut since protesting women, youths and traditional rulers, numbering close to 1000, set up canopies around it as Nigerian soldiers watched. The protesters have cooked, chanted songs and slept in the canopies, our correspondent reported.
A spokesman for the communities, Godson Egbelekuro Opueze, a traditional ruler of Ingeje town, urged the Federal Government not to renew Shell’s operating license. “Shell is the cause of the Niger Delta agitation and [the company is] against the Federal Government because they operate with a divide-and-rule policy. Shell has failed and they should never come to our land. Shell went to Ogoniland and destroyed the land and now we saying enough is enough,” he said.
He continued: “The MD of Shell just announced that Shell has spent over one million US dollars in Kula community. This claim is laughable and cruel because Belema community is in OML 25 and Kula community is OML 24 and OML 55.”
He stated that the oil company’s managing director had never visited Kula community or Belema community where the company operates, accusing the firm’s chief executive of lacking understanding of the communities. “Shell has no social license to operate in our community as that land lease agreement entered into with us expired five years ago,” said the spokesman.
He said the communities wanted Shell to hand over the oil fields to Belema Company, an indigenous firm that he said was committed to the development of the people and their communities.
Meanwhile, Shell officials have denied that the firm played a role in the underdevelopment of the communities. Our correspondent who visited the communities reported that there were no social amenities befitting of an oil-producing area, adding that many members of the community accused the oil company and the government of abandoning them.
“Our condition here is very depressing and abject,” said a recent unemployed graduate who hails from the area. “Our people struggle on a daily basis,” he added.