All is not well with Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited and eight oil producing communities of Rivers state over jobs and contract-related matters as GODWIN EGBA writes.
Historically, intractable crisis between oil companies and their host communities in the rich Niger Delta oil–bearing region has become an age-long phenomenon dating back to 1950s when oil was discovered in Oloibiri community in the present day Bayelsa state. Till the moment, the issues have not abated.Since the 1950s, the Dutch oil major–Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has been the dominant player in oil exploration and exploitation along with its partners or contractors in its various host communities in the Niger Delta region with a higher concentration in Rivers state.However, the major crisis oil companies face with their host communities are anchored on demand for job opportunities, contracts, oil spill remediation and other socio-economic development services for the community’s youth and their leaders. Notably, when a company is found wanting in its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its host communities, what follows is either protest or disruption of the company’s operations by the host community youths. Consequently, SPDC’s shelves and a number of its partners are now carriers of heavy file load of litigations in various courts in and outside the country. Their host communities are seeking redress over their rights such as job opportunities and contracts, among others. Shell is already a case study of litigation with the Ogoni land and other communities in the Niger Delta over the years.One can, therefore, make bold to say that the negative impact on the image of shell and the un-quantified loses it has suffered over the years because of host communities crisis are better imagined than experienced. As a result of this, unemployed youths help themselves with illegal oil bunkering, pipeline blockage, stealing of crude and other refined products. The height of it in recent time is hostage taking of oil company workers or what is now known as kidnapping all to attract attention to the demand of the people in the area. The recent face-offAmong a number of other community crisis facing Shell and its contractors is the recent one coming from Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state where a Shell contractor – Morpole Engineering Services Limited is operating but has its stack yard in another community called Ihuike in Ahaoda East Local Government Area, also in the state.Investigation reveals that just recently, some youths in their organised group came out in protest from their eight communities in Ahoada West calling on Morpole Engineering Services Limited to relocate its stack yard from Ihuike to Ahoada West or face their wrath. The crux of their grievances, according to investigation is that the company is operating from another community in Ahoada West instead of domiciling in the Ahoada West to pave way for youths in the area to access job opportunities and contracts as part of their benefits and the corporate social responsibility of the company in question.In their protest, they said, “Enough is enough! We have written to the executive chairman of Ahaoda West LGA, security agencies, prior to the time to intervene in the injustice meted the host communities by the Morpole Engineering Company but it is still carrying out its operational activities without recourse to ensuring our plights are adequately taken of. “We therefore state that Morpol Engineering Services Limited should henceforth cease its operation until the following conditions and resolutions are met.
According to them, they want a Relocation of the stack yard from Ihuike community to a site in Ahoada West Local Government Area where their projects is domiciled and stop contacting or referring to HRM Eze Felix Otuwarikpo on issues concerning Ahoada West Local Government Area and rather contact HRM Moore Meclean Obuo Okilomu Ibe of Engenni kingdom as chairman Ahoada West Local Government Council Traditional Rulers and chiefs. “The revocation of all employments recommended by Eze Felix Otuwarikpo. This is because Otuwarikpo is a traditional ruler in Ahoada East Local Government Area hence he should have no part to play in the affairs of Ahoada West Local Government. Ahoada West as a local government area has our own government- recognised first class traditional rulers: HRM Eze (HOM) Okaparaki Augustine Maxwell (JP). Eze Igbu Ubie IV, Igbu Ubuie Kingdom, HRM KING MOORE MACLEAN OBUO, Okilomu Ibe III of Engenni Kingdom and HRM. Eze J.E Eyiba, (JP), Eze Igbu Igbuduya II. These are traditional rulers and many more others are enough to make employment recommendation in Ahoada West Local Government Area if necessary, all community jobs shall be done by contractors from Ahoada West Local Government especially those from the host communities who own the contracts, provide list of community jobs/contracts and make the list available to the local government and host communities to enable us have a good knowledge of the employment chances available to enable us take part in it.”We want the list of the existing contractors made available to us, provision of employment for our youths both skill and unskilled areas as Ahoada West Local Government Area is blessed with able youths eligible for such opportunity.”It stated further that, “Only projects committees formed by host communities with the local government representative shall interface with MORPOL/SPDC and not chiefs.”The provision of a copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment report for this project (WEST MANIFOLD TO GBARAN CPF PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION) shown to the host community and the local government council to enable us ascertain the safety of our people.”Finally, we want you to provide a copy of the project GMOU (PGMOU) for proper understanding of rights, privileges and benefits due the host communities from the project,” they said.