By Emem Idio
SOME angry landowners have protested the alleged eviction from their lands by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, for its ENGL Pipelines Enwhe, Gbarain Phase 3A Project (Akenfa/Okarki axis) in Bayelsa and Rivers states.
The landowners, who stormed one of the project sites located in Okarki, a boundary community in Rivers State, yesterday, lamented that they have been subjected to inhumane treatment by SPDC for property that they acquired legitimately from the community.
The protesters, including women and youths, wielded placards with different inscriptions such as “Shell pay us compensation for our land,” “Shell has refused to pay us for our buildings they destroyed”,“Shell pay compensation before you work”,“Shell is wicked”,“SPSC stop oppressing us with military,” among others.
Landowners cry foul
While some of the landowners alleged that they were yet to be given a dime as compensation, others claimed they were threatened to receive a paltry sum or risk losing their lands for nothing.
A landowner, Ms Ebipadei Ariwei, an indigene of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in Bayelsa State, said: “I am protesting today on this land because Shell has refused to pay me compensation on my land.
“Without even my knowledge, they came to my land destroyed my buildings and started laying their pipes.
I am here to protest for them to pay me adequate compensation before they carry on with their jobs.“I bought this land (one hectare) from Okarki community in 2011, I have the documents with me.
Sometimes in 2015, some neighbours called to inform me that they saw some people clearing my land, I immediately rushed down and I saw the people clearing the land and demolished my buildings and when I started asking questions, they told me that they were from Shell and that they were going to pay compensation, but that they want to acquire the land first.
“They called me for negotiation but the negotiation has not yielded any result, only for me to wake up one day to see that without any notification or information, they have invaded my land, destroyed my buildings and economic trees and started laying pipes.
“Another landowner, simply identified as Mr Trending, said: “The same thing happened to my building. I bought a land, put a structure.
Shell’s coming to the Niger Delta is supposed to be a blessing but now they are forcing us into poverty.
“As I talk with you now, I have land here but I was forced to collect peanuts and let go because they threatened me that they were going to use force to take the land whether I take the money or not.
Mine are two plots of land with two bedroom building on it and this person just offered me N400,000.”
Shell’s contractors react
Contacted, contractors to SPDC, Morpol Engineering Services, said as contractors to SPDC, they were not responsible for the acquisition of lands for the project.
Social Perform Manager of Morpol Engineering Services, Mr Ayo Adeyemi, told newsmen that there was still time to engage the landowners as the project would end in 2022.
Adeyemi said: “SPDC is the owner of the project and we are the contractors to SPDC.
SPDC has the responsibility for acquiring lands from different landowners and landlords and as soon as that was done, the company gave us instructions to go ahead with work.
The instruction we got was that they had engaged the landowners.
“I intended to see how I could broker peace between SPDC and the landowners and I tried persuading one of the landowners that this job starts next year.
“I think there is a communication gap because SPDC told us not to worry that it was making arrangements to meet Ms Ebipadei Ariwei and settle with her once and for all.”