THE people of Belema community an Indigenous Oil Producing Community in Akukuro-Toru local community has vowed not to vacate the flow station in their community which they took over about two weeks ago insisting that the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) leaves their community.
Besides occupying the SPDC facility, the people have also employed radio jingles and other forms of publicity to draw the attention of the Rivers State and Federal Government to their demand.
Secretary of the community, Awu Welse, in a recent interview with newsmen said the people would not leave the flow station until their demand is met.
He said; “We are using this opportunity to inform the general public that it is the same people that gave out the land to Shell in 1980 that are now occupying the flow station and shut down the flow station the other day. If Shell says they are the ones that shut it down, let them come and open it. We are going to be in this flow station until we settle this matter”.
He condemned the statement by SPDC that the closure of the flow station by the Indigenous Oil producing people is illegal occupation, saying that Kula has the constitutional rights heir natural resources for no good.
He also denied the claim by Shell that they (Shell) is up to date with its social responsibility commitment to the people of Belema challenging “SPDC to come with NNPC, DPR as well as people from the Presidency to come and see the community called Belema and know how far SPDC has developed this community for the past 37 years, and all that Shell is saying over the radio is a complete lie”.
A disagreement has been brewing between multinational oil giant (SPDC) and indigenous oil producing community of Belema in Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State over issues relating with neglect of community in the provision of social amenities by SPDC.
While the community is claiming total neglect by Shell for about 37years of operation in the community, Shell claims that it had invested over N300-million worth of community development project in the community within the last 10 years.
To drive their points home, the indigenous oil producing people of Belema and Ofeyema recently staged a protest and shut down oil production activities in their area with the SPDC describing the action of the people as illegal.
In response Shell had in a statement signed by the General Manager, Igo Weli, External Relations claimed that it had invested over N600-million in the improvement of schools, infrastructure, health and other developmental programmes in Kula kingdom in the past 10 years.
He said most communities in OML 25 have continued to benefit from contract awards, employment of unskilled labour and social investment programmes provided by Shell stressing that legal tussles and disputes among the oil producing communities have made it impossible for Shell to implement planned development projects for the communities.
But the Paramount ruler of Ngeje Town in Belema community Godson Ekpelekulo speaking on the community`s position on the disagreement said the Management of SPDC lied in their response to the protest by the host community, which led to the shutdown of oil facilities in the area over the weekend.
He challenged the SPDC to conduct foreign and local media, and other credible observers on an independent tour of the host community to ascertain claims that SPDC has been involved in corporate social responsibility to the people.
“I am disappointed to hear Igo Weli who is a Rivers son coming out to lie to the public in defense of Shell that the company has executed project worth over N300-million in Belema and Akwayama community in the past 10 years.
This statement appears to be slanderous and provocative and we demand an immediate retraction of such slanderous statement. We therefore challenge Shell to conduct both foreign and local media on assessment tour to their host communities to verify their purported claims as to our agitation and Shell’s grievous divestment of OML 25 to Crystal Oil Company,” the paramount ruler stated.
He said 37 years of Shell operation in their host community has resulted in the poverty of the people, poverty of the environment and degradation of the area.
“We insist on our earlier stand on this matter; that there is nothing to show for Shell’s presence in the communities for the past 37 years of its operation of OML 25. We urge the general public to disregard the baseless and cooked up defense by Igo Weli in defense of Shell. It is based on this that we want Shell to cede its operation of OML 25 to indigenous company, Belema Oil.”