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N/Delta communities protest in Abuja over non-payment of N6.9bn rent by Shell

Indigenes of the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta took their protest of the non-compliance of the Senate resolution by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC on payment of N6.9 billion to Niger Delta communities to Abuja Thursday.

The protesters, who carried out their activities at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, threatened that they may resort to destroying the company’s assets in the whole Niger Delta region if the amount was not released to the beneficiary communities by the oil giant within two weeks effective Thursday.

Brandishing placards and banners with different inscriptions to pass their message to the appropriate authorities, the protesters vowed to go after the company’s facilities in the Niger Delta region if the resolution of the upper chamber of the National Assembly was not adhered to within two weeks.

Chief Odede Hezekiah, Chief of Opolo Community in Bayelsa State,who addressed journalists at the protest ground,said they would have mobilised the people of the area to go after the SPDC’s facilities to express their grievances but settled for protest in Abuja to draw the attention of not only President Muhammadu Buhari but also the entire Nigerians to the development.

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“We are giving them just two weeks from now, if they don’t respect the Senate resolution, anything can happen. We give them two weeks to pay the amount meant to cover between 2014 and 2023.

“Let them pay the whole money they are owing to the whole Niger Delta communities, that is why we are here if not, something will happen to their facilities.

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“We just want Buhari, the president of Nigeria to hear everything before we take our actions.

“We are giving them just two weeks from now, if they don’t respect the Senate resolution, anything can happen,” he insisted.

Also speaking, Mr Ayigba Shedrack, who identified himself as representing Azagbene Community of Bayelsa State, explained that:”

The Senate passed a resolution directing that they should pay N600,000 per hectare of land per annum to every host community in the Niger Delta.”

“But as I am talking to you now, they paid us N200,000 unlike what they paid the Forcados, Borny and others in Port-Harcourt”, adding: “As I am talking to you now, our people are agitated and if we go back now, anything can happen.”

He explained that unlike the company’s action where it paid N600,000 per hectare of land for annum to some communities in Rivers State, it had blatantly refused to do so to the Bayelsa communities.

Instead, he alleged that the company tried paying the communities N200,000 per hectare for a year, warning that unless it respected the Senate and comply in whole with its earlier resolution to pay the N600,000 per hectare and for per annum, they may be forced to resort to violence against the companies assets in the region.

He said: “In Niger Delta, particularly in Opolo Community, we didn’t stop any work any day. We could have gone down there to stop the drilling unless they pay us our balance. We could have gone down there with our youths to stop work but we just wanted the government and the people of Nigeria to know that we are not violent but Shell is the one always making us become violent.

“In 2017, we went to the National Assembly where they passed a resolution directing Shell to pay us but because they have no respect and regards to any Nigerians man, they have refused to respect the resolution and pay.

“We are here to draw the attention of President Buhari and Nigerians in general to the non-compliance of the Senate resolution by SPDP in the payment of N6.9 billion being the accumulated rentals and expired leases.

“If we leave here without resolution, then we will go there and stop their operation. Our people are agitated.

Recall that the Senate had, in April, this year, directed SPDC to the Shell Petroleum Development Company to respect its earlier resolution which mandated it to pay N6, 936,899,900 to some oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region.

The fresh directive followed a protest by people of the affected communities who lamented the refusal of the SPDC to comply with the resolutions of the Senate.

A firm, Bekele Jones and Associates had sent a petition to the upper chamber, to complain about the non-payment of the accumulated rentals and expired leases.

The firm specifically lamented the non-payment of the outstanding rentals for the Port Harcourt Oloibiri pipeline, the Oloibiri field, and the entire Utapate/Akwa Ibom fields.

On receipt of the petition, the Senate leadership through the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly conveyed its position to the oil firm.

The letter, dated 4th March 2019, and signed by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori, was addressed separately to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mustapha Boss, and Managing Director, SPDC.

The Senate resolved that the firm should pay a uniform rate of N600,000 per hectare of land as rent per annum for all loss of use of surface rights from 2014.

The upper chamber also directed the multinational company to “cancel all long term leases of 99 years already imposed on landowners and comply with the provisions of the Oil Pipeline Act which stipulate a term of 20 years only.”

It also resolved that SPDC should respect powers of attorney donated by landowners to their agents/consultants to negotiate for them and receive their rentals from the multinational company.

The upper chamber had in its resolution mandated SPDC to pay N6,936,899,900, which is the total outstanding amount for all unpaid rentals, expires leases and re-acquisition fees stated.

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