Ola ‘Kiya, Reporting
A hitherto peaceful protest laced with chants, drums and rituals is rocking Otumara Flow Station operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The protesters are the indigenous people of Ugboegungu, Ugborodo and Deghele in Warri South West Local Government Area of the state registering their non-inclusion in the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The peaceful and convivial protest, which involves the occupation of the SPDC facility, started on Wednesday with a 48-hour ultimatum handed the oil coy or be ready for a shutdown.
Stonix News reports that a shutdown of the flow station will amount to losing the production of 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day which could add more woes to the already shrinking economic fortunes of the Nigeria oil-economy.
In continuation of the protest on Thursday, hundreds of folks, both old and young, male and female, besieged the facility with speedboats, while drumming, singing and dancing at the helipad and security houseboat.
With palm fronds tied around their heads and clad in red and white attires, some energetic youths mounted their speedboats with their traditional drums, chanting and conjuring cosmic forces of the land to stand by them.
The protesters also engaged the services of a disc jockey, who provided additional western vibes with blaring speakers, which the folks were dancing to in merriment.
Some others were armed with placards and banners indicating some of their grievances, top of which is the call for the recognition and inclusion of Otumara Host Community Trust for the implementation of PIA Act.
Two of the placards bore inscriptions such as “We want the Petroleum Industry Act to be given to us,” and “On Otumara Host Community Trust we stand,” among others.
Ugboegungu, Ugborodo and Deghele communities are hosts to the SPDC Otumara Flow Station, and have jointly adopted Otumara Host Community Trust for the implementation of the PIA.
According to them, anything short of Otumara Host Community Trust, which must be registered, as far as the implementation of the PIA is concerned, is unacceptable.
Addressing journalists in continuation of the protest on Thursday, one of the leaders in Ugborodo Community, Comrade Alex Eyengho, said despite being eaelier handed 30 days ultimatum which had expired, SPDC has been recalcitrant in interfacing with them as regards the PIA implementation.
“We gave a 30 day ultimatum to Shell Petroleum Development Company which expired on the 21st of this month. Today is gone past the ultimatum day and being that Shell refused to take advantage of the 30 days window we gave to them by refusing to do the needful as it concerns the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“This is Shell’s facility hosting three communities: Ugboegungu, Ugborodo and Deghele communities. What you are seeing here is a protest and it commenced yesterday. It is a peaceful protest against Shell over their refusal to implement the PIA for these three communities.
“If I must tell you, the facility that Shell is operating in Otumara is the largest in Delta State. If we decide to shut down this facility today, Shell and Nigeria will be losing 20,000 barrel of oil per day, but we have not taken that route and we have been very patient with Shell.
“As it concerns this Otumara Community, we are saying that they should create our own host community to be named Otumara Host Community Development Trust that will be hosted by the three communities.
“We are not against any other host communities elsewhere. We do not want to be under any host community, be it host community of Warri Kingdom.
“We are saying that we are the host communities. If there is any form of oil spillage and environmental degradation, it is not going to affect those in Warri South Local Government and the others who are at the upland. It is going to affect Ugborodo and the other communities, primarily.
“This is in tandem with the extent laws of the PIA and we are not asking for anything. I think Shell should be happy that each of the three communities have come together to demand the PIA as a joint community and not as individuals,” he averred.
At the protest ground were also leaders representing the three host communities making up Otumara Host Community Trust. They included Churchill Omadeli, Olufemi Edema, and Anthony Menebo.
Omadeli, who’s a member, Council of Elders of Ugborodo Community, however, urged SPDC to respect its host communities by coming “to Ugborodo Community and discuss our matter with us without going anywhere.”
Omadeli said: “We are here in respect of the PIA that government has deemed fit to implement for us as a community. Ugborodo Community is a host community to Shell and what we are saying is that Shell should come to Ugborodo Community and discuss our matter with us without going elsewhere.
“Since the beginning of this PIA by the government, we have not seen Shell. They have not come to this community to talk to us any day. And we say, that is not fair.
“They should come and discuss with us and if they are not coming, we will go to them and that is why we are here. This is Shell yard, Otumara Ugborodo land.
“We want them to discuss the PIA with us. The government said the first thing to do concerning the PIA is to set up the Board of Trustees and in doing that, Shell will come to have a town hall meeting with Ugborode Community.
“Otumara is being operated by three communities, Ogborodo, Ugbegugu and Deghele Communities. These three communities are in agreement that Shell should come to Ugborodo and meet the three communities there.
“There in the presence of Shell and the three communities, we will nominate the chairman of the BoT, bring the secretary and then go ahead to register the name and that is why the three communities chose the name Otumara Host Community Trust.
“We have written to Shell times without number and we have even used lawyers to write to them too all to no avail. We will stay here until Shell comes out to discuss with us.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mr Menebo, who’s the vice chairman, Deghele National Youth Council, insisted that “the Act is for us, the oil-producing communities to benefit our people and compensate us for our long suffering and marginalisation.
“This Act is to develop our community and our region. We were here some months ago to tell Shell to hasten up because the bill has became law and it needs to be implemented by Shell.
“So several discussions have gone on, we have met severally with our leaders and they have discussed but the point we are now, the discussion is incomplete. There is no good result and we are having issues with the name to implement the Act. Which is supposed to be the name of the host communities.
“Shell in their own way are cutting corners. The name should be Otumara Community Trust. We met with leaders and Shell representative yesterday (Wednesday) which we gave 48 hours grace that they should come with Shell Managing Director and ensure that the names that we are protesting for should be registered before we leave this facility and every other thing that we are protesting for. The protest will continue until that demand is met.
“There have been several attempt to hijack this benefit that we are asking Shell to name the PIA. So we are here to tell Shell that that will not happen.
“Shell has been fond of saying something and doing the opposite. There was no response on the ultimatum that was given to Shell and that is why we are here to make sure that these demands are met.”
Edema, the National Vice Chairman of Ugboegungu community, warned SPDC, saying: “I’m here in a serious mood so I want everyone to know. For any other PIA that is not about these three communities, we are not in support. We have given them 48 and if Shell is not here, we are going to shut everywhere down.”
Meanwhile, besides the armed military soldiers manning the facilities, but allowing the protesters to have their fill, and a security meeting billed to hold, none of the officials of SPDC was available to address the protesters or speak with journalists.
Other notable leaders of Ugborodo community who were at the venue of the protest included Chief Ayirimi Emami, the Eghare-Aja of Ugborodo Federated Communities, Eghare-Daniel Uwawah, and Mr Isaac Botosan, among others.