• Rivers community with 150 oil wells laments erosion, neglect
Tony John, Port Harcourt
The people of Umuakwuru, Igbo Kingdom in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, have expressed worries over alleged neglect of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by firm operating in the area, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The community, claimed to have over 150 oil wells operated by Shell, stated that some of the MoU projects abandoned have turned to kidnappers’ hideout. Its acting Paramount Ruler, Eze Innocent Nwosu, complained that the flood that ravaged the community was caused by the abandoned road project.
Eze Nwosu, who is the Ekwu of Ekwuneland said since, the oil firm excavated roads and drainage without reconstructing the drainage and road, it has been very difficult for natives to access their homes and farm roads, especially whenever it rains.
The traditional ruler said: “The time we need the government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is now, because the community is an oil area. We have other 150 oil wells here only in Igbo Kingdom. Yet, we do not have roads to most of the communities.
“Flood is a big issue we have here in Umuaguru. Erosion has sacked some people in the community. This is caused by the company, which came here that they wanted to do projects in our MoU.
“They handed this road to a company. The company came with their equipment and bulldozed everywhere. Since then, we have not rested from flood.” He complained that the water scheme, cottage hospital, education, scholarship and upgrade of six-classroom block, as well as town hall, were all in a sorry condition:
“Even a court judgement by the State High Court in Port Harcourt presided over by Justice E Teetito in 2005 mandated the firm to complete projects in the community. We took it as a duty, we have done many write-ups and it didn’t work. Till today, nothing has happened.
“They came with a project called Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF), and abandoned the site. The IWMF project site has turned to safe haven for criminals and kidnappers. We cannot go there again. It is now a place where kidnappers go to share their money and kill themselves. That place is now a problem to the community.
“In January 2020, I went to Calabar, Cross River State, to see the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) over this case, because kidnappers came here to share their money and they killed one of them.
“Water scheme and Cottage Hospital, renovation of our school all have been abandoned. All that should have been done in line with the MoU have been abandoned by the company. It seems we have committed the highest sin in the whole world that they will leave us like this. We see the oil firm collecting our oil, not that we are sleeping. Yet, there is no road, no light, no water in the oil producing community. It is painful.
“We are calling on Governor Wike to assist us. There is no road to enter our community. As the governor of all the LGAs, he should intervene.”
A stakeholder in the community, Augustine Nweke, said: “Till now, we don’t have road in this community. When it rains, everywhere will become no go area because of flood. People who bought landed properties here have all run away because they could not develop them. Bad boys now disturb us every time.
“In 2005, Shell came here and awarded the road for construction, from here to Igwuruta. They started here to grade the road, but later they abandoned the road and other projects and left.”
Spokesperson for SPDC, Michael Akande, reacted: “SPDC maintains its commitment to the development of its host communities. The Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) strategy continues to enable our host communities to successfully take charge of their own development with the assurance of SPDC’s secure funding.
“The proposed Integrated Waste Management Facility in the community, a project started in 1999, was discontinued following strong opposition from key stakeholders in Etche. Despite the discontinuation of the project, SPDC still included Umuakuru, Okoche and Chokocho in the three phases of the Etche 1 Cluster GMoU.
“This resulted in the construction of 100-capacity town hall; electricity extension to new areas of the community and to Umuakuru Farm Road; bursary to 21 Umuakuru indigenes students in tertiary institution; skills acquisitions training for six youths and construction of perimeter fence for Umuakwuru Community Health Centre.”
Akande said Umuakuru’s work plan for the current phase of GMoU included renovation of a block of six classrooms in the community primary school; payment of bursary to indigenes in different schools; renovation of the health centre and refurbishment of the town hall.