Four communities where Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] operates in recently issued a 14 days ultimatum to the company, demanding for implementation of agreement reached with the communities in 1999. The communities include: Oruma, Otuasega, Elebele and Imiringi; all Ogbia speaking Ijaw communities in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, few kilometres to President Goodluck Jonathan’s community, Otueke.
Following the ultimatum to Shell, leaders of the community had appeared before the Joint Military Task Force [JTF] at the expiration of the time with a view to settle the matter amicably. Unfortunately, Shell could not convince the aggrieved communities that are demanding that the company honour the agreement it reached with them in 1999, and they decided to stage a peaceful protest to the heavily guarded Shell facility, the Kolo Creek Logistic Base.
ERA’s field monitor witnessed the protest that took place on the 7th of July 2011 and some of the protesters spoke with him.



We are here for a peaceful protest but if the JTF handles this matter in a violent way we shall only retreat and return in full force. Then it will be too bad for Shell because Shell has cheated us for too long. The Kolo Creek communities have been known to be very peaceful but if the soldiers and Shell take undue advantage of our peaceful disposition today to intimidate us, we shall not take it. If we hear any gun shot or if any of our members is injured here today by the soldiers, the rest of the state and the country will hear our action. All we are demanding for is that Shell should respect the agreement it reached long ago with our people; these four communities. They agreed to extend electricity to our communities but they are not doing so; while benefiting heavily from our oil wells. This is not a fresh demand, it is an agreement reached with us that we are trying to enforce.

Amakiri Joseph, Vice-Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Oruma

Because of our present mood I do not have much to say. Shell is wicked. They refused to implement agreements that they entered into with our community leaders some years ago. Have we not been patient enough? Can you imagine a situation where Shell prefers giving light to mosquitoes in the bush than human beings; even when the oil and gas they use on the plant that supplies them light is from our soil. All around their facility, even in the bush, they provide light. In some of these facilities you don’t see people, only mosquitoes; yet there is light there. That is why I said Shell gives light to mosquitoes, but not people in the communities where they operate.
Nothingbad Ada, from Otuasega community

I am here today because I support the demands of the four communities. We are not coming to make new demands from Shell, but that they fulfil the agreement they reached with us. We want our communities to be connected to the source of power that supplies them electricity twenty four hours every day. They cannot be taking the crude oil and gas from our environment and enjoy all the benefits and leave us in pristine condition. We know what is happening in other places where such resources are exploited. Apart from the issue of electricity, we are also demanding for good roads linking our communities. Shell should honour the agreement signed with us; that’s all.
Mrs. Beauty James, women leader of Oruma community

I retired from the Nigerian army and I am getting my pension. I just want to tell you that I am fully in support of what is going on here; the peaceful protest. If Shell is treating us well do you think our people will waste their energy on this kind of thing? There would have been no need, I tell you. The company should change its old tactics of dealing with host communities. Respect is indeed reciprocal. The only thing is, the protest should remain peaceful.
Loveday Ada, retired soldier from Otuasega

I have been part of meetings held between the JTF, our communities and Shell in recent times. Those meetings were all related to the issues concerning our demand that Shell should implement the agreement it entered into with our people since 1999. Even after the expiration of the 14 days ultimatum we issued Shell, there have been steps to avoid open confrontation. Shell is fully aware of what we are here for; the company is just trying to see what we can do. Yes, we are a very peaceful people but we are also human beings and have that capacity to behave otherwise when situation demands. We are not joking, Shell should honour the 1999 agreement or else the company is free to leave our environment for us. They should give us light, water, roads and also ensure that their operation within this environment is safe for us and every other living thing in the ecosystem.
Pastor Ranami Afagha, Vice-Chairman of Imiringi community

I want to say that I am aware of what the four communities are doing there at Shell office, the Kolo Creek Logistic Base. It is very sad and unfortunate that the company should allow our people’s simple demand to linger and lead to what you have just observed. We have written several letters and held meetings in relation to an agreement Shell signed with us in 1999 in the Presence of Nigeria’s current President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. Shell agreed then to connect our communities to the plant supplying electricity to their office/facility here in our environment. Actually there was a time they tried to lay the lines and we were all happy. But the company later abandoned the project. Shell felt the communities should rather be connected to the public power supply grid of Power Holding Company of Nigeria [PHCN]. That was not our agreement. We want to enjoy that electricity the company is getting from our oil and gas twenty four hours daily.
Apart from that, since Shell constructed a gas pipeline across the Kolo Creek, the creek has not been properly reopened to allow free flow of water. The creek is still partially blocked. ERA visited during the crossing of the gas pipeline and witnessed how it was then. Not much was done by the company after they crossed the pipeline. This is also part of the protest our people have embarked upon today. If you allow me I will continue to give more reasons why these four communities are annoyed with Shell. As community leaders, we have, however, appealed to the protesters not to take to violence but remain peaceful as they go about the protest.
Chief Ranami Joseph, Acting Paramount Ruler of Otuasega Community

ERA’s field monitor was at the scene of the protest early enough to witness the first set of protesters as they arrived in two buses and motor bikes. The two buses were loaded with youths and women. Other buses also brought community people from the four protesting communities. When the first two buses drove towards the Shell facility, they were stopped and sent back by soldiers at the JTF check point mounted there. Although the buses turned back, the protesters came down not far from the soldiers’ position. The soldiers were telling them to leave the environment but they were adamant. At about 6:18 am when more protesters had arrived, they started to move towards the JTF check point. By this time, about 12 JTF personnel had taken position to resist the protesters and prevent them from going beyond that check point. This was the situation until about 7:00a.m when some women carried a casket covered with white cloth and forced their way through the JTF check point. This action of the women received the support of some youths when they saw that the military men were trying to prevent the casket and those carrying it from passing that point. At last, after an initial struggle, the way was open for all to get access to Shell’s gate. The military officers were trying to control the situation from developing into violence, while the protesters were eager to see and hear from Shell. This scenario lingered on, when ERA’s field monitor left the environment at about 7:44 A.M. However, before leaving it was observed that though the soldiers appeared provoked, they behaved relatively well.

1    Shell should respect and implement the agreements in question
2    Other grievances of the protesters should be urgently looked into with a view to responding to them positively by Shell.
3    The authorities, from local to the Federal Government should wade into this matter and ensure that Shell does the right thing by implementing agreements reached with the communities in which they operate to ease escalation of tensions.
4    The communities should continue to press their demands non-violently.
5    The military should also remain disciplined and avoid taking negative actions against such peaceful protesters. 

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