ANGRY youths, women and elders of Obunagha community, Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have shut down the Gbarain-Ubie Gas Plant base, operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in the town in protest over alleged insensitivity of the company to their sufferings.
NDV learned the placard-carrying indigenes had, in the early hours of last Friday, stormed and occupied the road leading to the facility preventing workers and visitors from going in or coming out.
Placard-carrying villagers rebuff soldiers
Though armed soldiers were deployed in the area, the natives were not deterred as they rebuffed pleas to vacate the scene pending the resolution of their demands and grievances.
They erected canopies in the middle of the road to shelter themselves from the scorching sun and also tied traditional palm fronds across the road, a symbol of resistance.
The protesting villagers came prepared to the protest venue with their cooking utensils as they were sighted using the local hob and pot to prepare meal by the roadside, an indication that they were not ready to vacate the area until the circumstances that informed their protest are resolved.
The natives decried the lingering power outage in the area while the multi-billion naira gas facility located in the heart of their community enjoys uninterrupted power supply.
They also accused the oil company of not providing employment to the community youths as well as sacking those already engaged.
In darkness for two years
“We have been without electricity supply for two years and we have made several entreaties to the company to come to our aid to no avail. We are compelled to lay siege to the entrance to express our grievances and for the company to have a change of heart towards our plight,” an indigene of the area, Tonye, said.
He added that the operations of the oil company have not been beneficial to them, noting the water project executed by the company was nonfunctional while the gas plant enjoys uninterrupted electricity and water supply.
Another native, Josse Wose, said: “As you can see our mothers can no longer bear the perpetual darkness in our community when the occupants of the gas plant are enjoying uninterrupted electricity supply and all the basic need of life.”
“Sometimes the gas flare causes vibration in our homes and we are exposed to airborne diseases and environmental pollution. We have been responsible host over the years,” she adding noting that it would not cost the company much to rectify the power challenges they are facing.
No potable water, other benefits — Okoko, Obunagha CDC chair
Also speaking, the Community Development Committee, CDC, chairman, Obunagha, Mr Preye Okoko, said: “We frown at the current situation whereby Obunagha, as host community will bear the adverse impacts of operations of the oil company with little or no benefit. Our community is facing devastating erosion menace as could be seen along our waterfront and we also lack potable water supply. Imagine the harsh effect of the gas flaring we are daily subjected to.”
Contacted, SPDC Spokesperson, Michael Adande, said: “We are, with the support of government and the GMoU- CDB leaders, engaging these stakeholders towards resolving any area of disagreement.
“SPDC GMoU for the area is active and we encourage stakeholders to always engage as the GMoU places development in the hands of community people,” he added.