WARRI: Hundreds of protesters occupied a Nigerian oil facility owned by Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, demanding that a local company take over its operations, a community leader said on Saturday.
“We want Shell to hand over operations of the flow station to Belema Oil Company because it appreciates our challenges and needs,” community leader Godson Egbelekro told AFP.
Protesters from the Kula and Belema community in Nigeria’s restive southern Rivers state said the community has suffered through decades of poverty and neglect.
“We will be here for as long as it takes until Shell meets our demands,” youth leader Alfred Epedi said, adding “over 800 protesters” were occupying the flow station.
Security guards at the facility did not try to disperse the crowd as it entered the flow station on Friday.
The station, operated by Shell subsidiary the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC), feeds crude oil into its Bonny Light export terminal, which has a production capacity of 225,000 barrels of oil per day.
The flow station’s output remained slow on Saturday.
“Company officials have been engaging representatives of the community (in) talks but nothing tangible has come out from the said talks,” Epedi said.
In a statement, SPDC spokesman Joseph Obari denied the protesters’ allegations of neglect and said the company was working to resolve the situation.
“The company has spent several millions of naira on social investment projects and university scholarship programmes for students of the area,” Obari said.
“SPDC has informed the authorities of the illegal occupation and is working towards resuming safe operations,” he added. Community unrest in Ogoniland, in Nigeria’s oil-rich south, is not uncommon. Although Shell quit oil production in the area in 1993, the company still runs a network of pipelines criss-crossing the area.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, accounting for some two million barrels per day. It relies on the sector for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and 70% of government revenue.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2017.