SHELL: Delta Oil Community Boils, 3 Killed, Palace, Houses Razed
Huhuonline.com can report that over three persons, on Tuesday, have been reported dead while about 100 women and children were allegedly injured in a stampede caused by soldiers and mobile policemen who fired tear gas on protesters at a Shell Petroleum
Development Company (SPDC) flow station in Uzere in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta, resulting in the destruction of property worth millions of naira.
The palace of the Ovie (King), HRM Isaac Udogri 1, his guest house, cars, his wife's provision store and a house belonging to the Odiologbo of the community, Chief Ben Obegba were also allegedly razed down by irate youths.
Our sources revealed that the people of the oil producing community had staged a protest to the Shell controlled flow station to condemn an alleged claim that some leaders of the community were conspiring with the Shell oil company against them.
The people had alleged that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which started operations in the area since 1958, had not signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) with the community since its oil exploration activities in the area and, therefore, mobilised for a peaceful protest.
The protesters, who thronged out in their thousands, according to a community source, were asking that the barricade to the flow station, mounted by security operatives at the instance of Shell, be dismantled and allow them, entrance to present their demands to the company.
But instead, according to Huhuonline.com sources, 'the security agents insisted that they should disperse immediately and fired canisters of tear-gas into the air to scare them away. With gunshots also renting the air, the villagers ran helter-skelter, sustaining injuries in the process. The scale of the injury sustained by the protesters allegedly infuriated the entire community.'
The development was said to have irked the angst of the protesting Uzere people, especially youths, burning of a Mercedes Benz car and two Hilux vehicles provided for the security agents by the oil company as well as razed down their traditional ruler's palace, Ovie (King), HRM Isaac Udogri 1, his Guest house, cars, his wife's provision store and a house belonging to the Odiologbo of the community, Chief Ben Obegba.
'At the time the community youths forced their way into the company, the security agents had fled in different direction in fear that may be attacked by the angry youths', a source said.
'The initially planned peaceful protest and the protesters were led by members of the oil and gas committee in Uzere community, Messrs Okegbe Sam, Meshack Uge and Godspower Aluya, to show that there was no intention to revolt but the soldiers and policemen messed up everything', the source added.
Meanwhile, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Isoko South, Chief Superintendent Chris Forgbara, who led a team of policemen to quell the commotion, was also allegedly affected by the tear-gas from the security agents, who also shot indiscriminately into the air.
President-General of the community, Chief Emeakpo Owhe, had in an earlier account issued on the state of affairs between Shell and its host communities in Uzere kingdom, disclosed that 'It is a known fact that Uzere land has been blessed with oil and gas. It is also a known fact that Shell has exploited these natural resources on our fatherland for the past 52 years (since 1958).
'Consequent upon the above, we wrote Shell since February 2011 to come to Uzere to discus and firm up the GMoU (Global Memorandum of Understanding) with Uzere communities.
'In October, we reminded Shell on the imperative of putting a framework in place for the GMoU so that we can legally know the basics for our relationship/partnering and cooperation with SPDC.
'The only hospital Shell managed to build in Uzere is not functional because it refused to fund the health insurance scheme that will enable the hospital take-off properly. SPDC funded a similar Obio Cottage hospital in River State at N24 million. Why have they refused to fund the Uzere Cottage Hospital?
'The ultimatum given to Shell on the issue of GMoU with Uzere kingdom expired months ago, but up till now Shell has not shown any interest to have a GMoU with Uzere kingdom, its host.
'We have also written to the Delta State Government on the refusal by Shell to sign the GMoU. The Uzere community has, therefore, decided that if SPDC still wants to operate in Uzere land, it should come and sign a GMOU with Uzere before carrying out further oil activities with effect from today (Tuesday).'
Responding to the communities' claims however, Shell Media Officer in Warri, Mr. Joseph Obari said, 'We have confirmed that a group of youths from Uzere community this morning (Tuesday) invaded SPDC's Uzere Flow Station and shut it down. They attacked workers and burnt two security vehicles.'
'SPDC has phased the implementation of its highly successful GMoU model for sustainable development. Apart from two GMoUs tied to specific projects, the programme is already being implemented in three clusters in Delta State.
'We are working with the Delta State government to resolve the situation', Obari declared.