By Emma Amaize, Egufe Yafugborhi and Perez Brisibe
WARRI- YOUTHS of Itsekiri communities of Ugborodo, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, who have laid siege to Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, facility in their area for more than a week running, over alleged neglect, on Thursday, rebuffed the plea of the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, to lift the blockade.
National Youths Chairman, Ugborodo community, Comrade Ofe Nene, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said: “The governor sent an emissary to beg us to vacate the place, but we are not leaving.”
Vanguard also learned that His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri, has also made efforts to get the youths to simmer down in the past few days.
Youths of Ajudaibo, Ogidigben and Madangho, Itsekiri riverine communities in Esravos area staged a protest against the company, last Tuesday, and shut down one of its facilities. The protest enters its 10th day today (Friday).
Nene, in a letter to Governor Okowa, said: “Your Excellency Sir, I appreciate your call on us to quit the protest and calm all our people down, but we are sorry we cannot do that because that was the same way you asked us to leave Chevron Nigeria Limited, earlier, this year, that all our issues will be attended to, but till date we have seen no change.”
He, however, said: “We appreciate the way you settled the leadership crisis in our community, but it is pertinent at this point to let you know that we are still waiting for the inauguration of the new leadership, because the continuous postponement of the inauguration is creating an atmosphere where the oil companies in our community are short-changing us as a result of the lacuna.”
In the instant row with SPDC, he said: “I write once again to express my profound displeasure over the serious level of maltreatment, wickedness, fraud, deceit and clear act of underdevelopment of Ugborodo community by Shell Petroleum Development Company.”
“Shell Petroleum Development Company has major installations and facilities, including flow stations, oil wells and platforms in Ugborodo and has operated in the community for decades without any element of development or concern for the community or her people.
“This, they have flagrantly done and polluted our environment for a very long time, they have also refused to carry out their corporate social responsibility, CSR, to the community by failing blatantly to provide basic amenities for the community over the years.
“This wicked and dubious act by Shell on Ugborodo community led the community to revolt against them in the year 2002 and it was agreed by the community and Shell in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) duly signed by representatives of both Shell and the community, that Shell will provide light, drinkable water, housing, hospital and road to the community within a short period, but till date, Shell has refused to honour the agreement in the MoU after 14 years,” he said.
His words: “In 2015, the act of Shell became unbearable to the community, hence there was almost an uprising, but the situation was put under control when His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri invited both the community and Shell for a meeting where Shell agreed to carry out the aforementioned projects in the community after 14 years of its agreement.”
“Problem started when Shell refused to honour the agreement and in the last meeting with the community, said without cogent reason that they would carry out any of the projects in the community.
“Our major issues and reason for this protest include the development and provision of basic amenities (light, water, road, housing, hospital, e.t.c.) to our community, employment of our indigenes, and prompt payment of community contractors,” he added.
He asserted: “Your Excellency Sir, it will interest you to know that in Ugborodo today, ordinary headache kills people because there is no single health centre in the community, I can categorically state that most indigenes of the community have only seen a tarred road on the television because there is no motorable road in the community.”
“There is also no good school, potable drinking water, or even good housing for people to stay, because Shell Petroleum Development Company has refused to build any housing unit for the community.
“As I write you now, the average life sperm of indigenes of Ugborodo is presently 45years as a result of the highly polluted environment we live in, which is caused by the exploration and exploitation of the crude oil in our land by Shell Petroleum Development Company,” he said.
According to him: “This same company has refused to employ our indigenes even when we have struggled to develop ourselves by learning different skill jobs and as well sponsored ourselves to school to the level of university post graduate degrees.”
“We need the above stated changes to be effected in our community and only if that is done wwe shall stop the peaceful unrest,” he said.
Nene added: “Your Excellency sir, you will attest to the fact that the issues that have led most Niger Delta youths into restiveness and militancy is not different from this, but we are civil people and will continue to push for our right peacefully with all possible ways within the ambit of the law.”
“It is this same criminal antic that Shell Petroleum Development Company has used to under-develop, undermine and impoverish our community for decades that they have carried out oil exploration in our land.
“Finally Sir, I wish to call on you to use your good office to compel Shell Petroleum Development Company to do the needful in Ugborodo Community as above stated to finally settle this issue once and for all, as well as enthrone true and long lasting peace between us,” he asserted.