The sleepy community of Koroama in Gbarain clan of Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state was heated up yesterday when protesting women in their thousands shut down the activities of the Shell Petroleum Production Faciltiy under the Gbarain/Ubie project with capacity to produce over a million cubic feet gas and 70,000O barrels of crude oil per day.
The over five hours protest could not even allow the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Energy, Barr. Francis Ikio to prevail on the Traditional Ruler of the Community, Chief Sabu Kalaoru to stop the protesting women from continued occupation of the roads leading to the SPDC facilities.
The protest by the aggrieved women, in their hundreds and supported by Youths and Traditional heads from the Obunah, Okolobiri, Polaku and Okotiama clans, was in response to the rising refusal of the SPDC to honour the agreements reached in the recent Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) and some other environmental and related social concerns.
The women who were singing and carrying placards with inscriptions such as “Give us Light or Kill us” and “Honour our agreement or leave our oil” occupied the entire area even as some of them took their lunch at the premises of Shell.
The Woman leader of the Community, Chief Imomotimi Wariowei told newsmen that the activities of the SPDC in the area has no benefit for the people of the area and that the company has continued to deny the people of the area water, health centre [cottage hospital], light; employment of youths and to construct internal roads.
According to her, ”We were told the gas Shell is taking here is the largest natural gas reservoir in West Africa. The water we drink here is from the Taylor Creek, coloured water that has all the qualities to make people sick. Because of Shell’s construction of pipelines within the community environment we have been suffering from serious waterlog here and, our old people have been falling anyhow.
“So, the company should construct concrete roads all around the community. We want our youths to be trained [skill acquisition for school levers] scholarship for our undergraduates so that their lives can become meaningful. Right now most of them are just roaming about and going to look for jobs in other places while Shell is bringing other people to come and work here. Shell has done most of these things we are demanding for other communities around us, who don’t even have the kind of volume of crude oil and gas we have.
“We shall continue this protest until Shell responds positively to our demands. You can see that we have brought out pots, firewood and food to cook here. Tomorrow we intend to come with our mosquito nets; we will sleep here. Yes, we decided to block this road today and remain here, not to allow Shell access to the oil facility until our demands are met. Until Shell come to our aid, they will not take this crude oil and gas again”.
Also speaking, the Deputy Women Leader of the Community, Mrs. Clarice KwoKwo said that the people of the affected clans have met and decided that they will no longer take the promises of better things to come from the SPDC, insisting that none of them would leave the area until Shell gives them the needed facilities for the community even if it will take them one month.
They regretted that since the arrival of Shell in the area between 1972 and 1973, their people have patiently waited for the oil giant to do something to impact the community positively, but nothing has been done, positing that the action of Shell made them to close down the site.
Some of the Youth leaders of the community told our correspondent that the GMoU team of the community presented a claim for the provision for damages for peace to reign, but the oil giant failed to understand, saying, ” Shell made a provision of N72 million or so for the Gbarain Cluster which, they raised to N90 million [for about ten communities] and that has no basis”.
The Paramount Ruler of the Koroama Community, Chief Sabu Kalaoru assured that the indigenes are peace loving people and said “ My people are only on a peaceful demonstration; very peaceful, nobody is touching company property or facilities of Shell. They are only protesting against the wrong attitude of Shell, for not coming to the aid of the community. The women only blocked the road to deny Shell access; that they should not work. I don’t know how long this action will last, it just started this morning and the women are ready to go on until Shell responds positively.”
When contacted, the spokesperson of the SPDC, Mr. Precious Okoloba said the Bayelsa State Government is leading discussions between SPDC and Koroama community in Gbarain Kingdom over their demands for social amenities and that the SPDC has implemented several projects in Koroama including provision of potable water, construction of internal road, award of bursaries to students and undergraduates and training of youths and women in an effort to develop human capital.