SOCIAL DEPRIVATIONS: SPDC DELIBERATE NEGLECT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE OIL COMMUNITIES OF KULA

C h a r a c t e r  m o l d i n g  a n d  attitude building are dependent on training, whether societal or parental, ignored or accepted, a man is a product of his own determination, provided he is neither physically deformed nor mentally deformed. It’s not possible for all to attain same heights or ranks, some must serve others, whether by conquest, compelling needs, human fallibility or repression, but we can all live in harmony, if only our strives for truth is not a product of inordinate ambition and fairy tales of parochial and self-centered interest.

Justice is a strong panacea for peace and  t r a n q u i l i t y, w i t h o u t j u s t i c e , t h e development of communities will continue to suffer setbacks in Nigeria. With efforts of government at keeping the society clean and green, curb environmental hazards and provide ease of livelihood for the people, there is absence of justice on issues of conflicts, between host communities and notable oil companies deeply involved in oil exploration, particularly in Rivers States. The sordid situation negates the positive strides of government towards absolute peace in the Niger Delta, since the era of former President Umar YarAdua. Despite the attainment of peace in the region against Militancy, the people of the oil communities  deserves access to essential services such as, education, health, portable water, electricity and good transportation etc.

1803 to 1815 in Europe was an era of the Napoleonic Wars that arose from the resultant conflict of the French Revolution, one of the categories of the wars was the third coalition in 1805. According to a reliable source, Napoleon inherited a very chaotic republic but turned the tides around with the aid of stable finances, well-trained army and strong bureaucracy in his administration. The highly intense wars gave birth to the Congress of Vienna that facilitated relative peace enjoyed for a very long time in Europe through the spread of nationalism and liberalism.

Agonies in the oil communities;

The proverbial clause, protect the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’, has not been tenable in oil communities of Belema, Offoin Ama, Kile Ama 1 Kula Communities of Akuku-Toru- Local Government of Rivers State, as the indigenous people of those communities suffers series of social deprivations. The true state of the welfare of the people of those communities, as at September, 2018, were ascertained during the visit anchored by the President, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) – Amb Sukubo Sara Igbe Sukubo, in company of other notable.

Youth Leaders from across the Federation to an on the spot assessment of the state of welfare of the people of the oil communities mentioned earlier, which arose from recent tension created by the attempt by the JTF to eject the Belema Community Women from their watch over the Shell facilities closed down by the Belema Community.

“The Proverbial clause, Protect the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’, has not been tenable in oil communities of Belema, Offoin Ama, Kile Ama 1 Kula Communities of Akuku-Toru- Local Government of Rivers State, as the indigenous people of those communities suffers series of social deprivations”

T h e v i s i t a t i o n r e v e a l s a g o n y a n d sufferings of people residing on their ancestral lands over a long period with just an inheritance/ endowment rivers filled with crude oil, coincidentally, the main source of wealth for this Country. These people are crying for attention, they desire a new lease of livelihood, for over forty years of crude oil exploration by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), virtually nothing to show in terms of corporate social responsibilities by Shell to the generality of the community other than divide and rule tactics; encouraging disaffection and tearing the people apart through sentiments. One had expected that the struggles of the Niger Delta People that snowballed into peculiar arms struggle that gave birth to militancy against the State which was quashed with the amnesty programme granted by the Federal Government had settled all dust, sad to note that only the boys were settled, the communities remain in degradation, what an irony of life!

The basic privileges accruing to the communities are eluding the people partly due to direct allocation for specific developmental projects to the oil communities by the government. Aside the dilapidated public school and abandoned police post, the only other government presence is the hospital without facilities constructed by the government. Although the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari being awaited on Petroleum Industrialization Bill (PIB) is expected to solve critical problems confronting these oppressed people of the oil communities but unfortunately, the interest of the oil communities are not specifically protected on essential services as the item 7 tagged Community Development under the fundamental objectives of the PIB lacks specifics and implementation clauses.

An x-ray of the PIB reveals the bill seeks to adjust the

operational guidelines of the petroleum industry with a view to break the overbearing authority of the Minister of Petroleum and expand the structures of the industry towards creation of National Petroleum Regulatory Commission, The Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company (to be managed as a commercial entity) and setting up of Petroleum Equalization Fund to enhance development of all regions of the federation.

A proper insight offered by the elites among the residents of these communities revealed the deficiency in the

Petroleum Bill, which gave the Federal Government 55% and oil company 45% profit sharing, leaving the host community at the mercy of government, whereas, the oil company ordinarily supposed to develop the host communities with or without direct percentage on profit sharing for the host communities. Countless numbers of indigenes have lost their lives to the cholera epidemics, while maternal mortality increases with every child bearing as a result of non-availability of both portable waters and hospitals over the years, until recently when a Good Samaritan and UNICEF contributed a quota to provide pipe borne water.

The Belema Community shut down the SPDC operations in 2017 for not considering them on what is termed right of first refusal. The community has remained steadfast in their opposition to the refusal of Shell to consider an indigenous oil company from purchase of higher share percentage in the process of divesting, this decision is considered as a continuation of social deprivations, and they explained their conviction that an indigenous oil company can never ignore corporate social responsibilities simply for payments of gratifications to indigenous agents that usually sabotage collective wishes of their people. The Secretary of Offoinama Council of Chiefs, Chief Fiala Tubolabo Fiala, noted that ‘Kula people are living in abject poverty because of the activities of SPDC – abject poverty deliberately foisted on them by IOCs’.

“The Belema Community shut down the SPDC operations in 2017 for not considering them on what is termed right of first refusal”

Their conviction is borne out of the fact that an indigenous company with operating license within the same local government has transformed the host community from deprivations to abundance, this feat they desire sincerely towards the development of their communities. Despite the abundance of natural resources in Nigeria, our economy has been nose-diving for decades, our assets have turned to liabilities, reasons for this unmerited circumstances have always disturbed sane minds, alas, the terrible situation of the host communities where major oil exploration takes place gives a strong verdict.

No portable water, no electricity, no hospitals and no standard schools in the communities that provides the resources for the welfare of the entire citizenry. It amount to mockery to note that the activities of Shell Petroleum Development Company amount to a rape and the high tension in those communities must be arrested, through a proper yield to the yearnings of the host communities. We can’t continue to play politics with the aspirations of these people that craves for an improved welfare from the oil producing companies operating in their domains that assured them of better life. “Resist the devil and it shall flee from thee” When will the evil tree fall? Bandits are known for razing helpless people of their belongings, without mercy, SPDC are behaving like bandits to those communities and they are already on voyage, yet the detest transformations of those communities, if not, what can account for the social deprivations obtainable in those communities.

The series of deprivations being suffered by these helpless citizens offers opportunity to thinker over certain issues such as perception and humanity. Illusory perceptions which are rarely examined at the stage of conceptualization often cause deception to sane minds. When the adornments of life are achieved with ease, the favoured usually ignore the fact that, good time only last forever for those that lust not in self-glorification or for contented humans with savings for period of draught. Most time, the affluent consider the downtrodden as poor, they are poor because the society failed to protect their interest. Without oil explorations, aquatic life afford the oil communities certain benefits, with oil explorations, they are naked. Staked naked to say!

Youth Leaders to petition the International community and Federal Government;

Due to the alleged neglect of communities of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State by Shell Petroleum Development Company, notable youth leaders from across the federation on the fact finding visit to the area to ascertain the level of development vis-à-vis the state of the welfare of the people assured the communities of their readiness to initiate strong worded petitions to appropriate quarters to expose the oppressive tendencies against residents of the communities by International Oil Companies in the area.

The National Youth Council of Nigeria is the apex youth structure that represents the interest of Nigerian Youth globally and the National President of the Council – Amb Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo, who led other indigenous Youth bodies such as the Ijaw Youth Council, Arewa Youth Forum, Egbe Igbimo Odo Yoruba (Afenifere), Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth on the visitation expressed the readiness to reveal the machinations of the oil companies through petition to President Muhammadu Buhari and the International Headquarters of the Shell Producing Oil Company. The Kula Kingdom opened an agitation, demanding that Shell divests its facilities in the area (OML25) and vacates the area for lack of social amenities.

The representatives of the women resistance group keeping watch over the shutdown expressed that their continuous occupation of the facility was a sign of rejection of the further stay of SPDC within the area.
Comrade Olu Ekine, one of the women leaders said: We are here and we have stayed a year and three months at this facility because of how SPDC have been treating the residents with obvious disdain. “Since SPDC operations for over 37 years, they have not done any meaningful infrastructural development, no school, and no employment for indigenes who are graduates and no hospitals. When our women want to give birth we travel a far distance. As we are travelling, sometimes the boat will spoil and the person will deliver inside the boat. Sometimes the baby will die or the mother will die”

Solomon Gilbert, the leader of Offoinama community, who conducted the team round the community, stated that the communities have not benefitted from SPDC for over 37 years of their operation in the area. Gilbert alleged that since Shell operation in the area, nothing benefitting to the communities have been done. You can see the kind of school we have here. The only school in the Offoinama Community is a batcher school with only mud used on the floor. He challenged SPDC to come publicly to show any physical project they have done to favour the community. “We lack portable water, in fact we have nothing and this is the reason we are saying that Shell should leave our land.”

Dr. Engr. Udengs Eradiri, the former President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide expressed serious worry over the level of poverty in the oil producing communities, adding that the youths would formally make a report to the FG, “We are a fact finding team, we will do a formal report to the federal government and equally ensure that we write and meet the international community and the parent body of SPDC.
He stated that the essence of proper communication to the international headquarters of SPDC is very germane to abreast them of the true state of sufferings caused by the neglect of corporate social responsibilities by the handlers of the company in Nigeria as their behaviour negates global standard. “This level of injustice perpetrated against people of these oil producing communities must be properly reported, it’s unheard of that people who host a big oil firm like Shell do not have good hospitals or schools, not even pipe born water.”

The President of National Youth Council of Nigeria – Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo and other Youth Leaders after considering the agitations of the communities, urged Federal Government to consider the request of the oil communities on the issuance of the license to operate OML25 to an indigenous firm, Belema Oil Producing Limited that understands the plight of people of the region. “It is time for our people to do oil business. We are calling on the federal government to give our people to do this business because they will do better. Our people must be given first right of refusal. Belema Oil Producing has shown capacity and should be given the opportunity. Kula should be given right of first refusal” he asserted.

Our society suffers today because many among the wealthy citizens achieved their riches through dubious means, creating example for others to toll similar ignoble lane, what a hoax; yet, we all crave for a better society. As for me, The Federal Government must come to the aid of these helpless communities, the goofs of SPDC must be corrected, and we must forbid a continuation of the pains of these oil communities. They desire to live a better life to advance the cause of humanity henceforth and to protect the future of their children, let’s end the nest of poor governance in Nigeria by aligning with good conscience to determine our collective interest. Shoot oppression down, raise the flag of freedom.

The Federal Government share the large blame for absence of developments in those communities, but it is very alarming to note that their representatives have not done enough in terms of advocacy against the Shell Producing Oil Company that have practically neglected their corporate social responsibilities as no singular influence of the company is visible in those communities having operated for over 37 years.

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