Seven communities at the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Estuary Area (EA) in Bayelsa, have insisted on their autonomy in development matters.
The communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area (LGA) said they will continue to resist plans by SPDC to join them with five others in the Host Community Development Trust (HCDT).
The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 mandates oil firms to set aside 3 per cent of their operational expenses for community development to be managed by HCDTs.
Leaders of the communities; Bisangbene, Amatu 1, Amatu II, Letugbene, Orobiri, Ogbintu, Azamabiri, said they would not hesitate to shut down the company’s operations if their demand was ignored.
Mr Timothy Geregere, Chairman of Bisangbene community, and Mr Ebis Rames, his counterpart in Amatu II community, spoke in separate interviews in Yenagoa.
They maintained their stand that they would not want to be clustered alongside other communities, adding that they had made their position clear in several letters to the company.
Geregere said: “We want to be treated separately in the EA oil field and we have written several letters to SPDC. We have also demonstrated that we need separation.
“We will not allow divide and rule in our communities, so we are telling the world that we should be allowed to operate a separate trust.
“The separation is necessary because we are about 12 communities in the EA and the 12 Communities cannot live together.
“We were initially about four different clans operating the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) when the PIA came they invited us for a meeting, where they told us about it.
“Right in the meeting, we told Shell that we needed separation but they wanted to force the 12 communities together and we said no.”
He listed the 12 communities as Amatu 1, Amatu 2, Bisangbene, Letugbene, Bilabiri 1, Bilabiri 2, Ikeni, Izetu, Orobiri, Azamagbene, Agge and Ogbintu, while Bisangbene, Amatu 1, Amatu 11, Letugbene, Orobiri, Ogbintu and Azamabiri, are the seven communities that have agreed to work together.
According to Rames, “If there is no separation in the PIA, there will be no operation in the EA field.
“For the past years, we have been making peace, giving them enabling environment to operate and we have already built peace to almost 89 per cent but they are the ones now causing problem.
“We will shut down their operations, because I think for the past two years, even the GMoU has not been operating properly. The communities are not benefiting anything for the past three years.”
He also said they are facing challenges on community content plan policy which the SPDC is yet to sign after the communities endorsed the draft and have been awaiting its implementation.
“SPDC brought community content plan to us, I think precisely last year, that Communities should sign and the Communities have signed and SPDC refused to sign its part.
“Up till this minute and we are saying they should sign that documents and we also want the GMoU, the remaining part of the GMoU to be paid to the communities,” Rames explained.
The communities also bemoaned the refusal of the oil firm to redeem its promises to employ indigenes of the areas, adding that they should be paid their peace bonus for being peaceful communities.
“There have been no employment from 2000 till now, I think the people Shell employed from our communities are not up to 10 and they are like casuals till this moment.
“No human capital development, No development, we are just suffering.
“Government should tell Shell to meet the demand of the communities, or else we will not have any option than to disrupt the operation till they meet our demands,” Geres said.
Mrs Bola Essien-Nelson, Media Relations Manager of SPDC, has yet to respond to requests for reaction on the development.