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Etche, Shell In Face-Off Over Oil Spill

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The Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) is currently in a face-off with one of its host communities, Okpuala-Okoroagu 11, in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State over an oil spill incident at the company’s Nkali-well 11 facility located in the area.

The Tide gathered that following the dispute, a man identified as, Prince Chijoke Amadi, from the community was killed Wednesday while unconfirmed number of persons sustained various degrees of injuries.

A vehicle belonging to Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as well as other equipment were also burnt down, last week.

The Community Trust Secretary, Okpuala Autonomous Community, Okoroagu Etche, Mr. Amadi Aurelio, who spoke to The Tide, traced the problem to the evening of Sunday, 10th May, 2015, when community people were jolted by a heavy explosion from the oil well.

“On getting to the area, we discovered massive spillage every where. We contacted SPDC same evening and a team from the company came and left the following day. Another team came and confirmed that the spillage was from the well head,” he narrated.

He said the spill was a surprise to the community because SPDC tagged the well a dried one since 2007, and removed all the facilities, including the flow line.

“The location has since 2007 been abandoned by SPDC without surveillance, security, no grass cutting, no routine engineering maintenance, as a result, the place has turned to a thick forest”, he said.

The Secretary said on 15th May, the company stopped the spillage while discussions the company had with a delegation of the community twice at Shell Industrial Area, Port Harcourt were stalled as they could not arrive at acceptable conclusion.

According to Aurelio, instead of accepting negligence on the part of Shell as the cause of the spillage, the company turned around, saying the spillage was caused by sabotage so as to deny the community compensation for the huge damages suffered by the people.

“On 16th May, 2015, SPDC carried out a (JIV), Joint Inspection of the spilled area, and thereafter, forged the report without consulting the community leaders and chiefs”, he stated in a statement.

The statement alleged that because the community refused to sign the purported (JIV) report in which the company claimed that the spill was caused by sabotage, SPDC has resorted to invading the community with armed security operatives, intimidating leaders and Chiefs to sign the report under duress.

“This barbaric attitude of SPDC and the armed security men yesterday (Wednesday) led to the killing of one of the youth, Mr. Chijioke Prince Amadi during sporadic shooting, and others sustained various degrees of injuries and are now lying in critical conditions in one of the hospitals, as they invaded the house of one of the community leaders, Mr. Amadi Aurelio, who is the CT Secretary intimidating him to sign the forged JIV report”, it alleged.

Similarly, a statement issued by the headquarters of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Port Harcourt confirmed the death of the youth on Wednesday, and the burning down of the Corps vehicle by irate community youth.

The statement, which was signed by the Public Relations Officer of NSCDC, Mr. Oguntuase Michael, alleged that youth of the Community attacked men of the command while giving protection to some Shell staff and contractors who were there to fix vandalized oil well-heads and pipelines.

A Patrol vehicle of the Command was burnt down by the armed youth, leaving our Personnel to escape on foot. Information is also reaching the Command that one casualty was recorded in the unfortunate incident,” it said, adding that the command had ordered full scale investigation into the circumstances leading to the development.

But in a response to questions related to the allegations raised, SPDC, said that the joint venture has over the years “implemented community development projects and programmes at Okoroagu central community and the entire Nkali clan as part of its overall social investment intervention in the Etche area.

In a statement, signed by its Spokesperson, Joseph Obari, the company said that “under the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) agreement signed in 2007, SPDC JV has provided funding for electricity, water, town hall and other infrastructure in Okoroagu community.

“Also, more than 350 youth in the Nkali oil field area have benefited from the SPDC JV scholarship scheme and other human development programmes. SPDC JV will continue to contribute to the development of the area, although as is well-known, the development of a community is the collective responsibility of the government, the private sector and the people themselves.”

On the allegation that recent spill is as a result of a fault in its wellhead in Nkali, SPDC said that the claim was “not true”, explaining that “a leak was reported May 12 from Nkali gas Well-11 following the theft of the wellhead (Christmas Tree) by unknown persons. The well was not producing at the time of the incident.

“The wellhead serves as a seal and control system for a producing or non-producing well. Its removal at Nkali caused a leak of predominantly gas accompanied with some liquid which we stopped on May 15. Further repair work continued at the well location until June 1, 2015. It was clear from the joint investigation visit comprising representatives of regulatory agencies, the community and SPDC that the wellhead was stolen, although some community representatives refused to sign the report,” it stressed.

On concerns that SPDC has refused to address the impact of spill on farmlands, the statement said that “SPDC endeavours to clean up spills as quickly as possible, even the ones caused by oil theft or sabotage. At all times, we respond to spill incidents and work to clean up the spilled oil and remediate the environment as quickly as possible. However, sometimes access to the spill point and insecurity can delay our response.”

The SPDC also denied that it masterminded the killing of a community youth in cause of a peaceful agitation following the spill, noting that “Our staff have been engaging members of the community in order to assist with the demobilsation of a contractor who had completed securing the well from which the wellhead was stolen.

“After completing the work on June 1, 2015, the contractor was preparing to demobilise and vacate the worksite when some youth stopped him, demanding payment of compensation and other monies. On June 3rd, the situation escalated as our staff endeavoured to persuade the youths to allow the contractor to vacate the worksite.

“The community supported the well securing exercise, granted access to the contractor, and also supplied labour for the work. Nigerian regulations forbid the payment of compensation for sabotage spills. To set the records straight, SPDC did not deploy any security personnel to the community,” the statement emphasised.

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31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers

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Thirty-one states in the federation have no insurance cover in place for workers as of March, despite the provision of the requirement in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.

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One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts

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The World Health Organisation (WHO), has said, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for one in 100 deaths globally.
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”

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Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving

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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and other eminent personalities were among personalities that graced the thanksgiving ceremony in honour of Professor Antonia Celestine Omehia, yesterday.
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.

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