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THE DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (SPDC) AND BELEMA, OFFOIN-AMA & NGEJE COMMUNITIES IN AKUKU TO LOCAL GOVT AREA OF RIVERS STATE

By Ambassador Sobomabo Jackrich 

(aka General Egberi Papa)

Leader/Founder, Kengema Unity Forum(KUF)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the best adopted business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders (Company, Government and Community). 

It is a concept whereby organizations consider the interest of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on shareholder communities as well as the environment, and anything short of that usually  result in resistance from the communities concerned. 

Corporate Social Responsibility goes beyond statutory obligation to comply with legislation, but involves voluntarily taking deliberate steps to improve the local communities, the quality of life for employees and society at large. 

Promoters of CSR are keen to demonstrate that business has responsibilities beyond the production of goods and services and profit making. 

Socially responsible business in today’s society must maintain ethical principles in order to be successful.  But over the years; Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has displayed corrupt tendencies in OML 25 by being dishonest to the host communities. 

This irresponsible conduct demonstrated by SPDC is unethical and might bring harm to the communities and the environment in which they operate.

The principle of CSR holds all companies or organizations responsible for the people they affect, it also holds the companies responsible for any indecision or inactivity. 

This is based on the fact that companies have the powers to help people and develop the host communities and not to maltreat them. 

Oil bearing host communities like Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje in Kula, Akuku Toru local government area of Rivers State cry over obvious environmental degradation due to oil exploration activities by SPDC and as a result of their complete neglect which has induced hardship and exposed mostly youths of the host communities to all forms social vices. 

Poverty is now a pervasive problem among these communities. This has resulted in the development of a sense of relative deprivation and perception of dissatisfaction within the host communities.

THE GRIEVANCES OF OML 25 HOST COMMUNITIES:

Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities are major oil producing communities of which OML 25 operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) is situated. 

This makes SPDC a significant contributor to the country’s national income. 

However, the contributions of Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities to the national economy has not translated to corresponding physical and human capital development in the respective communities, despite the fact that the people and their communities suffer and make a lot of sacrifices for the land to produce the resources that the country depends upon for significant percentage of the national income. 

In recent times, the people of these communities’ complaint of deprivation, marginalization, environmental pollution and general neglect by both government and SPDC’s involvement in the exploration and exploitation in their communities have fallen on deaf ears.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has been massively exploiting the Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities but giving little or nothing in return to the people. 

In spite of the huge oil resource generated from these communities, there is nothing sustainable to show that can be thankfully credited to SPDC. 

The communities are not connected to the national grid, they depend only on diesel engine generators as the only source of power supply in the area. 

The communities have numerous graduates yet without jobs. 

Top on the mind of a progressive organization should be to minimize waste, prevent pollution, promote efficiency and developing local economy. 

But on the contrary, SPDC has refused to create the enabling environment to enhance the effective delivery of essential services to its host communities, and that is no longer needed by the communities, hence the agitation for the divestment of the facility to an indigenous company Belema Oil Producing Limited which has shown competence in the operation of OML 55 still situated in Kula. 

THE DEMANDS OF BELEMA, OFFOIN-AMA & NGEJE COMMUNITIES:

Belema Oil Producing Limited whose President and founder, Engr Jackrich Tein Junior, an indigene from the cachement area and in which the company already has about 7.5 percent shares in the said OML 25, should be given the opportunity for a first right of refusal to the divestment of the facility.

This demand does not only stem from the fact that the company has about 7.5 percent shares in OML 25, but also that it has shown capacity in its operation of OML 55 which was divested to it by Chevron about four years ago, and has brought massive developmental programs in its corporate social responsibility to the host communities. 

We prefer that the facility should be divested to Belema Oil which is an indigenous company, instead of Chrester Nigerian Limited which SPDC had initially divested it to, a move that failed to see the light of day because the host communities perceived that the company was an ally to SPDC. 

With it’s community engagement model since it resumed the full operation of OML 55, Belema Oil Producing Limited has proven that if such opportunity is again given to an indigenous company, the fortunes of its host communities will turn around for good. 

Belema Oil Producing Limited has become the first company in Nigeria to respect the Federal government’s directive that oil companies should relocate their corporate headquarters to their various areas of operation, in its recent announcement of the relocation of its headquarters to Kula. 

The recent gracious approval of license for the building of an export terminal in Kula to Belema Oil Producing Limited by President Muhammadu Buhari will enable the company create over 12,000 jobs through foreign direct investments, which will in turn translate to massive employment opportunities for the people of the area.  

It is essentially about giving needed supports to the communities for mutual existence, and this remarkable approach is why the Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities have resolved to enforce the power of perseverance by rejecting the undesirable marriage between them and SPDC.

OTHER REASONS FOR THE CHOICE OF BELEMA OIL AS STATED BY THE  COMMUNITIES:

Belema Oil is committed to supporting talent and encouraging investment in the creative industry globally recognized as a provider of opportunities for gainful employment and self actualization for the youths.

Belema Oil has demonstrated capabilities to enhance sustainable development and wealth creation in the communities and across Niger Delta.

Through NNPC/Belema Oil JV, scholarship was awarded to the communities for post-graduate, undergraduate, and post-primary schools students. 

374 persons benefited from the 2017 edition of the Belema Oil’s Annual Scholarship Scheme, over N70 million was spent in the scholarship scheme and the programme is being sustained till date.

The continuous implementation of people friendly Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies in host communities.

KENGEMA UNITY FORUM (KUF’s) INTERVENTION:

Kengema Unity Forum (KUF), the pan socio-cultural organization of the Kalabari Ethnic Nationality, with its objective to forge a common front to promote and defend Kalabari interests in all spheres of human endeavour, and facilitate peace amongst the Kalabari communities for a sustainable and accelerated development, after critical evaluation of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Vs Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje saga, has thrown its weight behind the communities. 

The Kengema Unity Forum noticed with discomfort that communities that contributes largely to the country’s revenue have remained the most neglected and impoverished in the Niger Delta. 

Despite the huge contribution of the Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities to the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the inhabitants continue to live in abject poverty, suffer ecological and environmental degradation, and remain grossly underdeveloped, lacking the most basic amenities that make life worth living such as portable drinking water, good roads, electricity, human capital development, good health service and lots more.

The continued neglect and underdevelopment of physical and human resources have led to series of agitations and conflicts between the indigenes and SPDC. 

To ensure smooth operation and rapid development of the communities, it is pertinent to mention that the facility be divested to Belema Oil Producing Limited of which its President and founder Mr. Tein Jackrich is an indigene of the area in question, to thoughtfully manage the facility, so the host communities can enjoy a robust corporate social responsibilities to company will provide them since SPDC has woefully deprived them of these benefits for almost four decades. 

Kengema Unity Forum (KUF) noted with displeasure that oil exploration and exploitation activities of most oil corporations in Kalabari district have impacted negatively on the environment and ecology of the oil bearing communities. 

It involves for instance, the construction of roads and canals, breaking of virgin or mangrove forest in the process, the destruction of fauna and flora as well as the pollution of the environment and the introduction of entirely new pattern and value system, thereby exposing the communities to high risks without any restorative plan.

KUF, in solidarity, supports the agitation of Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities as they have resorted to the concept of self-help by insisting that SPDC leaves the facility for Belema Oil to operate, since the SPDC has intolerably failed in its plan to demonstrate a sustainable development plan in the concerned communities. 

KUF upholds that the spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth, growth in the individual, and when exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of vigour and strength in the struggle for sustainable development. 

KUF prays that disagreement of this sort should not lead to the burning down of the facility and or result to any death as in the painful Ogoni case.

Other IOCs operating in some communities in Nigeria are enjoying infrastructure upgrades across many sectors including Education, Health, Roads, Electricity, Water, Civic and Sports development. 

Interestingly, almost all these programme were executed not only by Nigerians but mainly by contractors who are indigenes of communities where the projects are located. 

Why is it so different with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in virtually all the fields they operate? There were also projects stewarded by other bodies such as the Joint Industries Committee (JIC) in Bonny, Rivers state, where Mobil Petroleum of Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) provided funds for projects.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has failed to deliver on its corporate social and environmental responsibilities in Belema, Offoin-ama & Ngeje communities including community development activities. 

SPDC’s despicable action connotes that oil bearing communities in OML 25 are veritable graveyards of Shell’s community development projects.

Kengema Unity Forum applauds the federal government for its continuous encouragement and for creating an enabling platform for indigenous companies to show capacity in their ability to become active players in the oil industry, and thus sees this as a perfect opportunity for the federal government to further demonstrate its commitment by give that enabling platform to Belema Oil Producing Limited which has undoubtedly proven competence. 

The KUF equally applauds the group managing director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari for his all inclusive policy of ensuring that all stakeholders in the oil industry are carried along.  

We therefore appeal strongly to the Federal Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to wade into the matter for the interest of the concerned communities and the development of Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.

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