allAfrica.com (Nigeria Delta): Soldiers, Youths in Bloody Clash: “About 21 persons were shot and wounded at the weekend when irate youths clashed with armed soldiers in an attempt by the militant agitators to seize and occupy an oil flowstation…”: “The youths and a cross section of the community claimed the Anglo Dutch oil firm (Shell) and her agents were not fair to the community considering the quantum of oil drilled from their land and rivers.” (ShellNews.net) Posted 24 Nov 04
This Day (Lagos)
About 21 persons were shot and wounded at the weekend when irate youths clashed with armed soldiers in an attempt by the militant agitators to seize and occupy an oil flowstation at Ojobo, Burutu local government area of Delta State.
THISDAY checks revealed that the youths numbering over 200 swooped on the Benisede flowstation, but they were swiftly resisted by armed security personnel who set out to dislodge them.
Before the incident, THIS DAY learnt that youths of Ojobo had been at loggerheads with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over the oil multi-national's community relations policies and practices. The youths and a cross section of the community claimed the Ango Dutch oil firm (Shell) and her agents were not fair to the community considering the quantum of oil drilled from their land and rivers.
Beneseide flow station, produces about 75,000 barrels of oil per day from 45 oil wells.
Elders of the community were said to have been meeting with representatives of Shell and a contracting firm, Parker Drilling with a view to resolving the differences. One account said that it was during one of such meetings that the youths attacked soldiers who were monitoring the meeting.
According to the account, the meeting was to enable the oil company and the community leaders draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to pave way for a cordial relationship between both parties and advert whatever crisis there was to be.
Trouble was said to have started when youths of the community vehemently opposed the position of the oil company on certain vital aspects of the MOU, especially areas dealing with youths empowerment and employment.
Elders at the meeting were said to have tried in vain to calm down the situation but it soon degenerated into fisticuffs as armed security personnel monitoring the deliberations moved in to restore order.
Military sources claimed that some of the youths engaged the soldiers in physical combat and tried to seize their rifles. The exchange resulted in the release of a volley of bullets by the equally enraged soldiers.
At least 21 persons reportedly sustained gun shot wounds and were subsequently conveyed to Shell clinic, Oguru for emergency medical attention.
However, hours after, a group of youth leaders from the troubled town issued a statement alleging that over 20 of their kinsmen have been gunned down by soldiers on the orders of Shell.
But Public Relations Officer of the Joint Task Force, Major Saheed Hammed, in a chat with THISDAY yesterday evening denied the allegation levelled against the soldiers.
Also reacting to the incident yesterday, Shell's corporate external relations manager, Mr. Don Doham, confirmed the incident but explained that the shooting incident occurred on the rig which the youths forcefully occupied.
Boham said the youths invaded and occupied Rig 75 and that they vacated the facility as at press time.
"They occupied the rig belonging to Parker Drilling and demanded immediate commencement of community development projects, a review of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as well as direct dealing with service contractors to review work contract for six of their members," said Boham.
The rig, he said, was working for SPDC at her Benisede Well 22 when the youths invaded it. Boham further explained that only 17 of the invading youths sustained injuries in their scuffle with armed security personnel.
He also told newsmen that those injured have been treated while dialogue is continuing between the traditional ruler and community representatives on one hand and officials of Shell on the other.
There have been frequent clashes between youths agitating for more welfare packages for their communities from oil companies and members of the Joint Task Force comprising of men of the armed forces set up by government to gurantee security of operations by the firm.
The youths have also accused government of neglecting their communities which suffer degradation as a result of oil drilling while the people also lack basic amenities and employment opportunities.
To drive their points home, the youths have resorted to taking expatriates working at drilling sites as hostages or seizing oil rigs. The resort to criminal activities in the agitation for their rights have often led to frequent clashes with military men.