To forestall a breakdown of law and order, the Amanyanabo of Okochiri in Okrika Local Government Area, King Ateke Tom and the Rivers State Director of the Department of State Service (DSS), have prevailed on thousands of youths under the aegis of Rivers State Youth Federation (RSYF) to shelve their planned protest while also prevailing on the management of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) to suspend the phased relocation of the Supply Base of the company at Onne to Lagos.
Both mediators secured the armistice, following their swift intervention to prevent a complete shutdown of business activities at the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, in Eleme Local Government Area, last Wednesday, over the move by the Shell subsidiary to relocate its Supply Base out of Rivers State, a move the youths vehemently kick against.
Sources at the meeting told The Tide that both the DSS and the Rivers State Government were concerned about the long term security implications for the state should SNEPCo’s relocation to Lagos be implemented.
Sequel to the resolution, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, will next week meet with the top management of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and other relevant stakeholders over the planned relocation of the Supply Base of SNEPCo from Onne to Lagos.
It would be recalled that thousands of youths and women groups in Rivers State have staged peaceful protests to express their displeasure over the planned relocation of the SNEPCo Supply Base from Onne due to its adverse economic and security implications on the state and the entire Niger Delta region.
Last Wednesday, the director of DSS in Rivers State and King Ateke Tom had intervened in what would have been a stand-off between thousands of Rivers youths and the Shell subsidiary, and negotiated a deal to give the state government time to find an amicable solution to the impasse.
Speaking shortly after the meeting, President, Rivers State Youth Federation, Comrade Saviour Patrick, said the Amanyanabo of Okochiri and the DSS director have promised to work with other stakeholders to address the concerns of the youth, adding that they were going to wait for the outcome of the dialogue with the state governor.
Another source from the meeting said, “The youths are upset although the DSS director told them there was not much they could do, but he is worried that the situation does not degenerate into renewed militant activities in the state.”
The source added that this would not be the first time Shell had attempted to relocate its business from Rivers State, hinting that Shell’s decision was likely more political than commercial.
In August, more than 1,000 youths under the aegis of the Onne Youths Council (OYC) staged a peaceful protest at the SNEPCo Supply Base, asking the company to rescind its decision to relocate the base from the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone to Lagos port.
The President of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, who led the peaceful protest, said the planned relocation would lead to the loss of more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Tide gathered that SNEPCo workers have also kicked against the company’s plan to move the Supply Base from Onne to Lagos.
The workers, in a statement made available to newsmen on August 2, 2018, described the planned relocation as “hurried and ill-advised and against the interest of the Niger Delta region”.
The statement signed by one Edward Otaru reads: “We, the affected operations staff and expatriates of SNEPCO wish to bring the attention of the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians of a plan by the management of our company to forcefully relocate our operations from Onne, Port Harcourt to Lagos.
“The hushed, hurried but forceful relocation order emanated under a strange and suspicious condition, as it was neither discussed with the staff nor backed by any justifiable reasons.
“We decided to bring this hurried relocation order to the notice of the government and the general public because of its implication on our families and friends who might suffer unnecessary dislocation and also its implication on the Niger Delta region.”
The workers called on the Federal Government to halt the planned movement in the interest of jobs and development of the Niger Delta region.
The Paramount Ruler of Onne Community, King John Dennis Osaronu, also called on SNEPCo to rescind its planned relocation, saying that the community has hosted the company for more than 20 years without any disagreements.
In a reaction to the Onne youths protest, spokesperson for Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) said, “Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) has no intention of shutting down the Logistics Supply Base in Onne, Port Harcourt.
“The base will continue to be utilised by The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), operator of the SPDC Joint Venture for SPDC Joint Venture operations.
“SNEPCO’s operations are in the Bonga field 120 kilometres off Nigerian coast in the Gulf of Guinea and our operations staff and contractors work offshore in Bonga.”