• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Insight into strifes in oil communities: The Kula and Ogoni situations, according to SPDC’s Igo Weli

oil communities

Introduction

Every year, around May, Shell Nigeria releases annual report of its operations in Nigeria as part of international best practices, due process and transparency. They also feel obliged to the people of their host country in total disclosure of everything they do to the stakeholders and to Nigerians. Thus, observers can know exactly how much they paid to the FG as taxes and royalties as well as everything they did to the host communities. This has reduced false claims by governments about what they realised from oil.

In doing this, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) hosts newsmen in at least three major locations in Nigeria, often Lagos, Port Harcourt and Bayelsa; sometimes, Abuja and Warri may feature. At the presentation ceremonies, they explain the Report (book form), share perspectives, and take questions and observations (which have often reflected in future public affairs policies).

Most journalists look forward to such sessions, probably not because of the facts and figures in between covers but the humanity in the persons they see from far and hardly understood; the fellows who wear the Shell toga which the people tend to dread or loath. It is at these moments the newsmen discover that these are our fellow Nigerians, our brothers and sisters who often show warmth, radiate love and humanity, and show understanding.

Often, newsmen get glimpses into their own difficulties, pains, and confusion. These are persons who share our cultures and mannerisms but are straight-jacketed into European behaviours and etiquettes. They battle to live in-between; eager to relate with their fellow Nigerians and Niger Deltans, but also keen not to breach international protocols and Shell’s standards. After all, their next posting may be outside Nigeria.

Thus, the 2019 session was no different. It is an occasion the General Manager, External Relations of Shell, Elelenwo-born (Port Harcourt) Igo Weli relishes. The team from Lagos (including Bamidele Odusesan and Anthony Ogedemgbe) was there at the Port Harcourt Library Centre near Pleasure Park on Aba Road. The agile lady, the General Manager, Safety and Environment, Chidube Nnene-Anochie was much on ground with her sparks and jibs at newsmen. The adorable lady, Gloria Udoh, External Relations Manager, Social Investment, was present in her full and pastoral elegance; and the Manager, Ogoni Restoration Project, the Prof, Vincent Nwabueze, would not be mistaken.

The team preferred the interactive approach whereby journalists made remarks out of their feelings about Shell in the past one year and raised issues and questions. Each Shell manager starting from Weli responded to aspects, after which journalists were to proceed on ‘study leave’ to study the book called booklet.

Critical questions touched on three senstive areas; is Shell using divide and rule tactic to relate with host communities thereby sowing seeds of discord ? What is Shell doing about the siege on their oil field in Kula where the communities want the field taken away from Shell to a new indigenous oil company ? Is Shell plotting an Ogoni  re-entry scheme ?

 

Igo Weli’s bitter truth to his Niger Delta kinsmen

 

The GM (External Relations) launched into what he termed his bitter truth to his kinsmen. He made it clear he is a son of the region, just from Elelenwo in a part of Port Harcourt who has lived all his life in the Niger Delta and would continue to do so. He wanted everyone to know that his children live in the Niger Delta too. Thus, he would not poison the region and hope to live there. His aides disclosed that his charge to them is never to bring up any statement for hm to sign if anything is false in it.

 

Divide-and-Rule ?

 

There is no iota of truth in the accusation of using ‘divide-and-rule’ tactic in the Niger Delta. Rather, what Shell finds most times is people calling us to come and intervene and help them get contracts in GMoU projects. Our stand is, go and sort it out with your people. You have many approaches that can work amicably in each GMoU cluster foundation. You can apply turn-by-turn or senioriy or whatever works for your community.

We have observed that a lot of persons prefer conflict and promote it a lot. So, you find people rejecting peaceful formulas and cause conflict and begin to call on Shell. Shell will not get involved. Let us make it clear once again that Shell will not come in and begin to push up or push down one person or the other. You communities must learn how to sort yourselves out when jobs are given to your community. 

 

In one instance, somebody kept calling and pressing for us to help him get a contract in a GmoU cluster. When we would not play ball, he used some influential persons to call but did not know that call went to our desk. We overheard everything he said and what he wanted. When the person called us, we told him ahead what he was to tell us, he laughed and ended it there. We tell them, see, you have started inviting Shell to come and dictate things, if we should do it, you will be the same people to go out and say Shell allocates the jobs from behind. Shell will not do it.

 

Marginalisation : Our people have overused that term and we now use it to hide all our defects. Its is sad.

 

Ogoni re-entry ?

 

Shell has no plans to re-enter Ogoni. Those who insist on such claims or insinuations know what they may be pursuing. Instead, we get calls everyday from Ogoni people asking us to come back, some offering to help us come back. One called me and said he has the structure that can help us come back. I told him, use your structure to build other things for your people, Shell is not interested.

 

Some other times, we ask the person to put it in writing, and they would flee. Look, Ogoni does not have the quantity of oil that can equate the damage the Ogoni story has done to the Shell brand worldwide.

 

Profit without Ogoni: By the way, Shell made $23bn in 2018 without a drop of oil from Ogoni. What does that tell you? It shows that Shell has moved on without Ogoni. It is left for Ogoni to move on without Shell. Shell is a global brand and can mitigate from other areas what it lost in one area.

Some Nigerians we met abroad at the venue of a court case against Shell, out of sympathy, wanted to know the size of oil Shell is losing in Ogoni ; they believed it must be over 75 percent of Nigeria’s total output. When we said it was not near it, they said, okay, 50 per cent ? We laughed it off, saying we were not sure it was up to 2 per cent. They were shocked. We asked them how they think a nation can lose 75 percent of its oil source for over 20 years and still survived. They now understood and said the truth about Ogoni matter may never be known. They said the world may have been sold a dummy with a facade on the surface.

 

Who is losing ; Shell or Ogoni? Making Ogoni to be in the news for the wrong reasons creates long-term perception over the years that affects investment decisions in the area. How many persons in the world would put $1Bn into Ogoni on investment ? Our people think there is profit is creating a bad brand laced in violence and anti-investment rhetoric. Investors make hard decisions and your continuous messaging line of disruption, pollution, violence, insecurity, protests, etc, are being noted by investors and their financiers.

We can all see the decision made by Dangote group which was a purely business decision to move to Lagos to set up a set of hydrocarbon plants (fertilizer, petrochemcicals, etc). He preferred to spend any amount to pipe the raw materials from the oil region to Lagos and have peace than to face daily protests and sieges at their gates. (This is at a time the world is urging Nigeria to move to the downstream sector of the oil industry, processing. By scaring away investors like Dangote that are moving into that section, we are denying the Niger Delta that crucial sector that spills jobs and creates real wealth. Experts say its a huge loss.)

 

What we must know is that only private investment in the Niger Delta will transform the region, no matter what governments promise. Nothing more. So, its not true that Shell is plotting re-entry, directly or indirectly. I have personally said so to MOSOP. It is on record that we said so.

 

Even the attitude of Ogoni leaders whenever a meeting is called would not show that there is consensus that can attract investors. We held a meeting in Abuja with MOSOP, KAGOTE, and other Ogoni groups the other time and they could not agree on anything among them. The Minister admonished them to go back home and come up with a position. Instead, they would begin to quarrel and threaten each other in the presence of those we said caused us harm.

 

The NPDC (Nigerian Petroleum Development Company) has taken over OML 11 (including Ogoni fields) since 2012, so how is Shell planning to come back? Please journalists and members of the public should learn to direct any such questions about OML 11 to NPDC. The Ogoni matter has facts, fiction, and emotions. It’s difficult to separate one from the other.

 

Any serious mind should approach the matter by asking, what will Shell lose by not going back to Ogoni? Shell still spends funds on Ogoni because of pipelines carrying crude from other areas through Ogoni areas to Bonny Island for export.

 

ORP (Ogoni Restoration Project) by Dr Vincent Nwabueze

 

We have three projects in Ogoni : Clean up in Bodo Creek; Clean up of numerous re-pollution sites in Ogoni; and Supporting HYPREP in the main Ogoni Clean Up Project as recommended by the UNEP.

I can tell you that Nigeria is wasting more resources by cleaning and re-polluting. You dont clean the floor while the tap is still running.

 

Bodo Repollution : We are wasting money and 55 per cent of it belongs to the FG. If we step away, our action would be misconstrued, and if we stay, its endless waste of money, mopping the floor while the tap is still running.  We are however encouraged by the exciting results of the work we have so far done; fish has returned, birds from the forests coming back, etc.

 

UNEP had said in the report ; dont start clean up until all secondary polluting stops

We change pipes and things that are weak and if we go to carry this out, they say, hei, its re-entry. If we leave it, they call it negligence. We even found that some of the indigenes we trained as pollution control agents and made them contractors to clean polluted areas now turn round to cause pollution to create clean-up contracts.

Note : Newsmen suggested that a time line of UNEP Report compliance update be conducted quarterly to know what the UN Report asked each stakeholder to do and what percentage of compliance has taken place every year or every quarter. FG is to create structure ; Shell and others are to pay $200m per year for five years ; and the communities are to comply by stopping all repollutions. Each group has a duty. There is need to see who is breaching the UNEP Report, including the communities.

 

Kula issue and N700bn loss

 

Nigeria has lost N700Bn in the Kula stand-off (crisis since the community people laid siege at the oil field and stopped Shell operations. Kula is said to be host to 200 oil wells of about 150bpd.) Various authorities have tried to intervene without immediate success. The military investigated the matter and saw the truth too.  Various VIPs that intervened would come back to us to express frustrations at what they found. They would say, we can now see. Many meetings have been held so far but nothing came out of them.

 

In 2018, the Akuku-Toru local council boss looked into the matter but ended up by warning that the outcome of the siege could be a dangerous one by the kind of precedent it could set.  This is a license the FG renewed in December 2018 but the field has remained occupied by the villagers who are demanding forceful handover to another oil company.

The OML produces 25,000 per day and Shell is still interested in it and we have wonderful facilities still on ground there. What is playing out there is like horror movie where someone occupies oil wells owned by another entity in this time and era ?

Look, if Shell is successfully driven out of the Belema Oil Field, it could be a huge message in the industry. There are Rivers investors owning fields in other parts of the oil region especially in Akwa Ibom. Those people could rise one day and demand that it be handed over to their own sons. The world is watching, but we remain optimistic.

 

Ignatius Chukwu