Shell Petroleum Floods Delta Community With Soldiers
By Amour Egodibie Amour, SaharaReporters, 8/5/12
May 10, 2012 - 9:55:33 AM

The fragile peace currently existing among the people of the oil-producing Uzere community in Isoko South local government area of Delta State is said to be under threat as the management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) yesterday flooded the area with soldiers.

On November, 29, 2011, the protesters from the community – women, men, youths and elders – had protested at the Shell flow station in the community. Community leaders disclosed that they and their people had protested in a bid to meet with officials of the multinational oil company to discuss what one source called “gross neglect of our plight and reckless abandonment of our community.” When the security at the gates denied entry to the protesters, a huge fiasco ensued in which soldiers reportedly tear-gassed the protesters. “Three indigenes of this community died,” said a source.

Irate protesters subsequently razed down the palace of the community’s traditional ruler, Ovie Isaac Udogri 1, as well as his wife’s provision store. The protesters accused the ruler of conniving with the multinational company to the detriment of his own people.

Following the bloody melee, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan set up a judicial panel of inquiry headed by Justice Sylvester Ehiwario, to probe the cause of the crisis. The panel concluded its sittings two months ago but is yet to come out with a report. Meanwhile, in what community spokesmen described as a deliberate provocation, SPDC drafted soldiers to the community “in order to intimidate our people into keeping quiet so that Shell will resume its productions,” said a source in the community. Production has been suspended for over four months.

A management staff of SPDC, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed the presence of the soldiers in the community. He said, “The soldiers were drafted to the flow station as we are set to resume production. The company can no longer wait for the outcome of the panel’s report set up to probe the remote and immediate causes of the crisis.”

The Shell source said Shell had lost billions of naira over the five months its production was stopped at the wake of the bloody crisis.

SaharaReporters gathered that some community and youth leaders were uncomfortable with Shell’s use of military muscle to intimidate Uzere. A delegation from the community have demanded, through Rear Admiral John Kpokpogri (rtd), chief security adviser to Governor Uduaghan, that Shell be called to order to avoid another bloody confrontation.

A cross-section of the youths who spoke to SaharaReporters threatened to resist every attempt by SPDC to resume production in the community before the Justice Ehiwario panel’s report is released. “Our brothers who were killed by SPDC soldiers are still lying in the mortuary,” said a spokesman for the youth. He added, “The dethroned Ovie is our problems in the community. What happened last year November should be blamed on him and the Odiologbo, Chief Obegba. If we should tell you all the atrocities these two persons and their cohorts have committed against the community you will weep for us. Uzere community was the second place where oil and gas was discovered in 1958 after Oloibri in Bayelsa State. But till date there is nothing to show for it. The deposed monarch and the Odiologbo don’t see anything bad about Shell because they are benefiting a lot from Shell. They handle all contracts from Shell to the detriment of our community.”

The indigenes also criticized a former chairman of the local government area whom they described as one of the most corrupt council bosses in the country, alleging that the unnamed politician was one of those fueling the crisis in the community.

Before concluding its sitting in Warri, the Justice Ehiwario panel had threatened to subpoena the embattled traditional ruler, Mr. Isaac Udogri. The panel’s chairman expressed dismay over the monarch’s flagrant disobedience to constituted authority.

Mr. Udogri persistently absented himself from the commission during the panel’s sitting in the Government House Annex, Warri.

Source: Ocnus.net 2012