The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has been urged to take urgent steps to clear blocked water canals and lakes around its Gbarain-Ubie gas facility in Yenagoa local government area of the state.
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, made the call at a stakeholders meeting with SPDC officials and representatives of Ogboloma, Okolobiri, Opolo, Obunagha, Yenezue-Epie, and other affected communities in Government House, Yenagoa.
Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, Governor Diri empathized with all the communities suffering flooding and other environmental challenges due to the blocked canals and lakes occasioned by massive construction works at the facility and its access roads.
He noted that the livelihood of the people of the area had been negatively affected by the development, describing as unacceptable the reasons adduced by SPDC in its explanation of causes of the delay in clearing the natural water natural channels.
The Governor, therefore called on Shell to quickly identify the blocked areas and commence remediation work including clearing of water hyacinths from the waterways to enable the people access their farmlands and fishing ports.
He specifically urged the Royal Dutch oil company to issue a procurement order for the clearing of the canals to start as soon as possible.
Governor Diri, commended the impacted communities for their show of understanding and patience for about 16 years of the existence of the Gbarain-Ubie gas plant project led to the blockage of water canals and lakes.
He, however, pleaded with the communities to remain peaceful and law abiding as any disruption of oil exploration activities anywhere in the state would negatively affect it’s monthly revenue.
Speaking separately on behalf of the communities, Mr. Josiah Inebaraton, Mr. Robinson Longlife and Mr. Lakumo Dominic, said their people have suffered untold economic hardship, stressing all their fish ponds and lakes had been put out of use due to blocking of the water canals from SPDC projects in the area since 2006.
They said the communities decided to stage a protest due to gross indifference, disrespect and disdain from SPDC towards the affected communities, even as several complaints letters had been written and meetings held with Shell.
The representatives appealed to Government to prevail on Shell to immediately execute the remediation contracts on the clearing of the blocked water courses to alleviate the sufferings of the communities and forestall complete shutdown of the company’s operations in the area.
In his remarks, the Corporate Relations Manager (West), Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Uchenna Amaechi, blamed the delay of the remediation project on the environmental impact assessment report.
Mr Amaechi pleaded for more patience from the communities, noting it would be impossible to commence work immediately because of the flood.
He however disclosed that four out of nine contracts had been awarded by SPDC for opening of water channels and de-silting of blocked canals.