By Dele Ogunyemi
Nigeria’s oil industry may lose 20,000 barrels of petroleum crude per day any moment from now as palpable tension grips the Otumara Flow Station operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company.
Aggrieved indigenous people of Ugboegungu, Ugborodo and Deghele in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State are laying siege to the flow station, alleging non-inclusion in the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act by Shell.
The PUNCH gathered that their occupation of the flow Station laced with chants, drums and rituals was a follow-up to an initial peaceful protest that started on Wednesday during which they gave Shell a 48-hour ultimatum, failure of which they threatened would result in a total shutdown.
Industry sources told our correspondent that a shutdown of the Otumara flow station would amount to losing the production of 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day, an ugly situation that would worsen the nation’s economic fortunes anchored on oil production.
As the protest persisted on Thursday, hundreds of placard-carrying natives, both old and young, clad in red and white attires, with palm fronds tied around their heads, besieged the flow Station with speedboats, while drumming, singing and dancing at the helipad and security houseboat, chanting and conjuring cosmic forces of the land to stand by them.
Their placards and banners carried inscriptions such as “On Otumara Host Community Trust we stand”, “We want the Petroleum Industry Act to be given to us”, etc as they insisted on the recognition and inclusion of Otumara Host Community Trust for the implementation of the PIA Act.
The protesters maintained that the communities had jointly adopted ‘Otumara Host Community Trust’ for the implementation of the PIA saying that anything short of this, is unacceptable to them.
Leaders representing the three host communities making up the proposed Otumara Host Community Trust, on the ground at the protest venue, included Churchill Omadeli, Olufemi Edema and Anthony Menebo. Other notable leaders comprised Chief Ayirimi Emami, the Eghare-Aja of Ugborodo Federated Communities, Eghare-Daniel Uwawah, and Mr Isaac Botosan, among others.
Although armed military soldiers guiding the flow Station were also on the ground, the protesters were allowed to air their grievances unhindered.
However, none of the officials of SPDC was available to address the protesters or speak with journalists as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, one of the leaders in the Ugborodo community, Comrade Alex Eyengho, while addressing newsmen recalled that the 30 days ultimatum that had earlier been issued to SPDC on the matter had since expired with the oil multinational remaining recalcitrant in interfacing with the aggrieved host communities, as regards the PIA implementation.
Eyengho said, “We gave a 30-day ultimatum to Shell Petroleum Development Company which expired on the 21st of this month. Today is gone past the ultimatum day and being that Shell refused to take advantage of the 30-day window we gave to them by refusing to do the needful as it concerns the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act.
“This is Shell’s facility hosting three communities: Ugboegungu, Ugborodo and Deghele communities. What you are seeing here is a protest and it commenced yesterday. It is a peaceful protest against Shell over their refusal to implement the PIA for these three communities.
“If I must tell you, the facility that Shell is operating in Otumara is the largest in Delta State. If we decide to shut down this facility today, Shell and Nigeria will be losing 20,000 barrels of oil per day, but we have not taken that route and we have been very patient with Shell.
“As it concerns this Otumara Community, we are saying that they should create our own host community to be named Otumara Host Community Development Trust that will be hosted by the three communities.
“We are not against any other host communities elsewhere. We do not want to be under any host community, be it the host community of Warri Kingdom.
“We are saying that we are the host communities. If there is any form of oil spillage and environmental degradation, it is not going to affect those in Warri South Local Government and the others who are at the upland. It is going to affect Ugborodo and the other communities, primarily.
“This is in tandem with the extant laws of the PIA and we are not asking for anything. I think Shell should be happy that each of the three communities has come together to demand the PIA as a joint community and not as individuals.”