allAfrica.com: Ojobo Community, Shell And Claims of Genocide: “…this time around a new lexicon was introduced into the litany of allegations against the companies, including claims and counter claims of sponsored killings and genocide against the people.” (ShellNews.net) Posted 8 Dec 04
THE Ojobo community has been in the news lately over alleged poor treatment by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and its contractor, Parker Drilling. However, this time around a new lexicon was introduced into the litany of allegations against the companies, including claims and counter claims of sponsored killings and genocide against the people.
The Ojobo community is divided by a river which splits the people into two states; Delta and Bayelsa. The community hosts the Benisede flow-station and Parker Drilling owns a rig working in the area. Recently, about 80 community youths from the Ojobo community in Delta State invaded Rig-75 belonging to Parker Drilling to demand immediate commencement of community development projects, a review of the Memorandum of Understanding, and direct dealing with service contractors to review the work contract for six of their members.
There are conflicting claims about the involvement of the security agencies, with Shell saying that members of the Joint Task Force (a security outfit set up by government) were stationed in the area at the time of the incident, and the community people insisting that security operatives had always been stationed there. Whichever is the case however, following the intervention of security operatives, it was gathered that some of the youths purportedly wearing charms tried to disarm them and in the scuffle that ensued there was a gun discharge.
The scuffle resulted in the injury of 17 youths who were treated on site and 12 of them moved shortly after to the Shell clinic in Warri. It was gathered that while all those who were taken to the clinic in Warri for treatment have been discharged, the other youths agreed to leave the rig in batches on Sunday following the intervention of the traditional ruler of the area and a Shell Community Liaison Officer. Shell says there were no fatalities and that normalcy has been restored in the area.
During a visit to Ojobo over the weekend, although community people treated Vanguard with a lot of suspicion, and efforts to speak with the Amananowei (the traditional ruler) proved abortive, an eye witness who introduced himself as Lambert Saleh from Ndoro town located inside the creeks in Bayelsa state pointed out that nobody died on the day of the incident, adding that another boat driver who was there remains missing. Efforts to get Mr. Akporo Areteikemo, the vice chairman of the community to speak on the community's grouse with Parker Drilling and Shell also proved abortive. He insisted Vanguard should speak with the community chairman or the Amananowei.
It would be recalled that the Ijaw Monitoring Group, led by Comrade Joseph Evah had earlier sent a petition to the United Nations as well as all foreign embassies in the country accusing Shell of genocide in the Ojobo community. The petition written by Comrade Evah on behalf of the Group had condemned the alleged attack on defenceless citizens of Ijaw nationality at the Benisede flow-station by the army which Evah further alleged was being sponsored by Shell. "The killing of Ijaws at the aforementioned area is on a daily basis and this has become a daily occurrence in the Niger Delta region," Evah claimed.
However, Comrade Evah reversed his position in a telephone interview with the Vanguard last Thursday saying although sixteen youths were injured in a scuffle with security operatives, nobody was killed. "No, nobody has been killed, but there are wounded people in different hospitals and the fear now is that Shell may organize soldiers to start picking them up. The youths are currently mobilizing to attack Benisede and until this problem is resolved we will not relent," he said.
Evah pointed out that the people want Shell staff and soldiers to leave the area, adding that the IYC (Ijaw youth Council) had acting through the local militia issued a 14 days ultimatum for Shell and Parker Drilling to leave the Benisede area or face the wrath of the people of the area.
"That your country man Omuku, he is an Ijaw man from Okrika and he can not call Shell to order. We are warning all our people in Shell to note that they will come home someday. If they constitute a problem to us we will deal with them when they come home. We will attack family members of Ijaw people who work with Shell whenever we have a problem with Shell. This way, their sons and daughters who work with Shell will be forced to look out for our interest," he said.
Comrade Evah said sixteen of those shot were still receiving treatment at the Shell clinic in Warri while the rest had to resort to local treatment for fear of recrimination from Shell sponsored security operatives. Comrade Evah also said that the Community Liaison Officer of Shell to the Ojobo community is a shareholder of Parker Drilling and the Ojobo community youths have issued an ultimatum saying they do not want Parker Drilling.
"But Shell acting through the CLO forced Parker Drilling on the community, using military personnel led by one Lieutenant Ibrahim. If the youths see the CLO there they will kill him. That is how bad the situation is. The youths also want Lieutenant Ibrahim out of the area because he is being used by Shell to terrorise the people," Evah further claimed.
In its reaction, Shell management disclosed that it conducted an investigation into the allegation of seven deaths and that this included independently interviewing people who were unfortunately injured as well as approaching respected Ijaw community leaders. "Their statements were consistent that there were no fatalities." The company disclosed that the matter has also been discussed at the Delta State Security Council in the presence of Ojobo community leaders and their Delta State assembly representative Funke Keme. "Again, there was no mention of fatalities. However, in the light of the allegations raised, which we take seriously, we will now re-visit our investigation and review any additional information, "the company pointed out.
Regarding the presence of soldiers in the area, the company said that the Niger Delta has continued to witness cases of inter-community strife, piracy, hostage taking, wilful damage to facilities and crude theft by well-armed gangs. As in any other part of the world, the government has a duty and an obligation to uphold the rule of law - whilst at the same time respecting the human rights of its people. The breakdown of law and order in the Warri area has led to increased presence of federal security forces and SPDC has assisted them with accommodation and transport in order to protect life and property. "However, they are not under our operational control - in Nigeria as elsewhere deployment of security is the responsibility of government. Normally they tend to operate at some distance from our facilities. We inform the authorities when we have specific concerns about security incidents, the company further explained.