TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Host communities of Oil Mining Lease, OML 25, in Kula Kingdom, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, have called on the United Nations (UN) to intervene in their agitation against the resumption of oil exploration by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in their area.
The communities, Offion-Ama, Belema and Ngeje, made the call yesterday, when a team of civil society delegations on a fact-finding mission, visited the contentious oil field shut down two years ago by them.
Speaking on behalf of the Offion-Ama Council of Chiefs, Chief-elect, Mpakabuari Welsch, called on the UN to intervene in the struggle, adding that the communities had blacklisted the company.
Welsch noted that Shell has operated the oil field for a period of four decades and has not left any developmental imprint in the area, stressing that the communities still live in abject poverty.
He expressed worries that the residents, who are predominantly fishers, have been chased out of business, noting that the waters and the environment have been destroyed.
He said: “This is the third time we are shutting down this facility because of SPDC’s neglect. We have entered Memorandum of Understanding with them for over three times and they have not implemented any.
“They have neglected us and failed to carry out their Corporate Social Responsibility. We are using this opportunity to call on the United Nations to come to our aid. We cannot do this alone.
“We should be given the right of first refusing and we want the facility to be divested to an indigenous firm, BelemaOil Producing Limited, that has a better template to communities”, he stated.
Also speaking, Dr. Austin Tam-George appealed to the communities to remain peaceful and not to resort to violence in their quest for justice.
He said: “There is a United Nations declaration on the right of the indigenous people. That was done in 2007. Your rights are protected. So, what we will advise is that, do not resort to violence.
“We are happy to hear that the communities do not want violence, but you want justice. We have seen the whole thing with our own two eyes. We will take this fight to the international community”, he promised.