Communities Give Shell 2-Week Ultimatum


By Sola Adebayo

Vanguard (Lagos)
March 11, 2003

The leadership of two oil-rich communities in Delta State have handed down a two-week ultimatum to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to embark on infrastructural development of their areas or stop oil exploration activities. Owevwe and Opherin communities in Ughelli North local government council of the state gave the ultimatum weekend. The aggrieved oil-bearing communities also asked the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia to remove the team of soldiers presently at Eriemu NGC station, within the ultimatum in the interest of peace in the area.

The two communities at a news conference addressed by Chief B.O. Asaboro on their behalf at Owevwe town hall alleged that the management of SPDC and its contracting firm, Dresser -and Nigeria Ltd. were using the soldiers to torment and harass the hamlets and law abiding villagers. Similarly, they requested SPDC to commence and conclude the negotiation of new Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) in respect of the Eriemu gas station contract within two weeks.

Asaboro said the press conference was organised "in order to protest in strong terms the high degree of marginalisation now being meted to the host communities by Dresser-Rand Nigeria Limited with the knowledge of SPDC." Asaboro stated that "two roads leading to the town are impassable. SPDC did not show concern inspite of the fact that they have 30 oil wells in Eriemu field. We don't have potable water in these two communities. When you complain, SPDC would tell you that they have contributed 3% to NNDC.

"We would explode anytime after two weeks ultimatum within which we expect them to come and work on our roads and provide water for us. We can no longer tolerate abject poverty. We are prepared to be killed by the soldiers. Enough is enough."

Asaboro who claimed that Eriemu has the biggest gas station and manifold in the West Africa sub-region demanded that "our place should be developed. We need good roads, our abandoned water project be revisited and our graduates be gainfully employed. We say no to casualisation of our qualified sons and daughters by companies located on our soil.

"We asked SPDC to come and renew the expired MOU but instead of doing that, they brought in soldiers to intimidate and harrass us so that the MOU cannot be entered into. We have nothing to show for our status as oil producing communities, our people are suffering "Asaboro further lamented.

To this end, Asaboro asked the Federal and Delta state governments to prevail on SPDC management to be alive to its responsibilities to his people. He recalled that the two communities of Owevwe and Opherin were forced to accept a MOU separately signed under the watchful eye of a man introduced by SPDC as its community liason officer in respect of the Eriemu gas stations contract two years ago. Under the arrangement, Asaboro said, all categories of employment were casualised, a system which he said dehumanised and marginalised his people.

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