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Land owners on massive protest against SPDC in Bayelsa

…Say SPDC forcefully takes over their land without compensation

Isaac Ombe, Yenagoa

It was a bad day for multinational oil giant in the Niger Delta, Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC), last Wednesday, following massive protests organised by  some land owners against alleged takeover of parcels of land without compensation.

The aggrieved, placard-carrying land owners, led by Ebipadei Ariwei, matched through the project site allegedly taken over by SPDC  located at the  Akenfa/Okarki section of its Enwhe-Gbarain Phase 3A pipeline project on the outskirts of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

Some of the placards had inscriptions such as ‘SPDC pay our compensation before  you carry on with work’, ‘No compensation no work’, ‘Shell pay adequate compensation before you work’, ‘She’ll stop oppressing us’, ‘Shell you have forcefully taken over my land, destroyed my housing project’.

Angered by what they described as SPDC’s oppression and injustice , the protesters lamented that the contractors destroyed houses built on the land without paying them any compensation before going ahead  with the work at site.

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Narrating her plight, Ariwei,  one of the land owners  on the SPDC gas pipeline project site, noted that all  efforts to present what is involved in her one hectare of land and building on site before the company commenced work was in vain as delay tricks were played on her.

According to the aggrieved land owner, she woke up one morning to hear that SPDC and its contractors at site had destroyed her building and commenced work with impunity .

Said she, “To confirm what I was told on phone, I went to the site and met them at work with excavators and other equipment including pipes laid.

“We are here to protest Shell’s refusal to pay us compensation for our lands that they have destroyed. Without our knowledge, they came to the site and destroyed my building and started laying pipes.

“When I came and saw them excavating and scattering my building, I asked them why they are doing it and they said they are Shell, and that they are going to settle us because they want to acquire the land.

“They called me later that they want to negotiate but the negotiation has not been concluded, and they have come to forcefully lay pipes and destroy my building. I demand that they pay us adequate compensation.”

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While describing Shell as ‘oppressive’, Ariwei added that  “They are threatening me that if I don’t give up the land, they will use soldiers to brutalise me because it is a Federal Government project and they must take the lands by force.”

“This is a multi-billion Naira project but they have refused to pay me compensation for my  one hectare of  land and housing project they have destroyed” lamented  Ariwei who was flanked by e her siblings including Mr. Training Ariwei and other protesters.”

The massive protest which however disrupted work at the site was also taken to the main office gate of Morpol Engineering Services, contractors handling the job for the SPDC.

It was the same massage to the management of the company as they were told to do needful, pay they required compensation to landowners on the gas pipeline site.

Mr. Training Ariwei, also affected in the same vain said, “My building was also destroyed just like that. I thought it was a joke. Shell’s presence in the Niger Delta is supposed to be a blessing to us, but they are sending us into poverty.”

When contacted the development, the contractors to SPDC, Morpol Engineering Services, said as contractors to SPDC, they were not responsible for the acquisition of lands for the project.

However, explaining their side of the incident, the  Social Performance Manager of Morpol Engineering Services, Mr. Ayo Adeyemi said, “SPDC are the owners of the project and we are the contractors to SPDC. SPDC are the people that has the responsibility for acquiring lands from different landowners and landlords and as soon as they do that they give us instructions to go ahead and be working. The instruction that they gave us is that they are engaging the landowners.

“My intention was to see how I could broker that kind of peace between SPDC and the landowners and I tried persuading her that this job is not now until next year.

“I think there is actually a communication gap because SPDC told us not to worry that they are making arrangements to meet with the landowner and settle with her once and for all,” Adeyemi added.

Bamidele Odugbesan, is the SPDC Media Relations Manager, but efforts to reach him was in vain as calls through his phone not answered. Text messages were not  replied also.