BY Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—Men of the Joint Task Force, code-named Operation Pulo Shield, were, weekend, put on high alert as protesters besieged oil facilities operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, over the company’s divestment plans and proposed sale of its Oil Mining Licenses, OMLs.
Stakeholders and indigenes of Nembe-Bassambiri, who are hosts to some of SPDC’s installations in Nembe Local Government Area of the state, were angry at the plan by Shell to sell OML 29 located in their territory without consulting them.
The oil major has reportedly placed its 45 percent stake in four oil wells, including OML 29, for sale as part of its divestment.
The aggrieved indigenes, armed with placards, stormed the company’s facilities on Saturday and asked Shell to stop production for three days to address their demands.
The protesters, numbering over 100, were made up of women, youths, chiefs, leaders and elders from the community led by a member of the community’s Oil and Gas Committee, Chief Brigidi, they took over the Nembe-Brass waterways, chanting solidarity songs as they headed to SPDC’s major oil platforms in the area to register their grievances.
They took their protests to Shell’s Santa Barbara Flow Station, Tora Manifold and Odema Flow Station in the mangrove swamp.
The presence of the protesters at the facilities initially created panic among SPDC workers living in houseboats but the tension thawed after security operatives discovered that they were harmless.
Some of their placards read: “The land is ours, the oil is ours, Shell cannot divest without us”; ”No, to Shell OML 29 sale”; “After polluting our land and water, Shell wants to sell our land”.
They slammed the oil major for its “lukewarm” attitude to their plight and not carrying their community along in the scheme of things.
Indigenes of the community, who stormed the flow station at about 1.30pm in 12 speedboats in what they called a peaceful protest to make known their grievances over the alleged planned sale of Santa Barbara flow station and others warned that unless Shell carried them along in the process they would cause an uprising in the area.