13 August 2001

Nigeria: Ijaw Youth Shot Dead By Shell Police

Yenagoa — Policemen attached to Shell Petroleum Deve-lopment Company Lim-ited (SPDC) shot dead a 23-year-old youth, Master Gabriel Jimmy Ayoko at Agoubiri community in southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa State this weekend.

Impeccable sources said Ayoko, an SSII secondary school student met his death at SPDC's Akanbou oil field on the bank of River Nun while on a mission with other youths, to stop Shell from carrying out its cleansing exercise in the area.

The aborted clean-up exercise, it was also learnt, followed an oil spillage that occurred some months ago which the protesting youths claimed Shell deliberately delayed.

One of the survivors of the police attack said their protest was informed by Shell double standards in its operations in the area. "When an oil spill occurs in developed countries, how many hours does it take Shell to start a clean-up exercise? This oil spill ocurred many months ago but Shell did not bother to do anything about it," he said.

According to him, Ayoko met his untimely death while attempting to argue with a Shell contractor who was accompanied to the Akanbou oil field by about 50 armed mobile policemen.

Though the remote cause of the extra-judicial killing could not be immediately ascertained, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Bayelsa State Police Command, Mr Benson O. Idemudia (ASP) said the deceased was shot while trying to disarm a police officer at the site of the oil spillage.

Reacting to the killing, the Bayelsa State government said it had on several occasions warned multinational oil companies operating in the state to desist from extra-judicial killings of youths in the state.

The state government's reaction came through the state Commissioner of Environment, Chief Lionel Jonathan-Omo who maintained that the killing of youths in the state by securitymen attached to oil companies doing business in the state is not acceptable and will not be condoned.

Jonathan-Omo who later went to Yenagoa waterside to see the body of the deceased stated that the state government will formally make a protest to Shell over the killing.

When THISDAY visited Yenagoa waterside the body of Ayoko was still lying inside the speed boat that brought it from the scene of the incident.

Efforts to reach Shell as at press time proved abortive. On the two occasions, THISDAY called at the office of Shell liaison officer in Bayelsa State, Mr Fidelis Agbiki he was said to have gone out on official engagements.

Meanwhile, attempts by Ijaw youths in the state to protest the killing of Ayoko was aborted by security operatives who shot several cannisters of teargas to disperse them.

The security agents who mount sentry at the entry and exit points of the waterside did not leave until virtually all the protesting youths dispersed to different directions.

In another development, Bayelsa State governor's trips overseas have drawn the ire of Ijaw youths. A communique issued at the end of their summit in the Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa said "the governor is not paying enough attention to the governance of Bayelsa State."

"The governor spends too much time on irrelevant and wasteful foreign trips. He is firmly advised to spend more time on his job and less on overseas trips, tempting as they may be," they said.

The communique signed by three Ijaw youths activists, Messrs Dimieari Von Kemedi, Patterson Ogon and Patrick Ebiware on behalf of not fewer than 200 other activists stated that the people of the state have lost confidence in the institution of government.

"The allegations raised in the impeachment notice against Alamieyeseigha and the counter allegations against the legislative arm of government have weakened the authority and legitimacy of the present administration.

"The government of the state is lacking in vision and has no discernable mission. The state of development is not reflective of the amount of money that have been received by the state since the inception of the present administration.

According to the communique, the state is riddled with too many intra and inter-communal conflicts, most of which have not received adequate government attention.

The original culture of peace in the state, the communique further said, has been replaced with a culture of violence induced by foreign values, multinational oil companies divide and rule tactics, negative politics and government helplessness.

These conflicts, according to the communique include but were not limited to Akassa (Fish Town)/Koluama, Akassa (Kolobie)/Egweama (Orukolo), Twon/Okpoama, Imiringi/Emeyal, Biseni/Agbere, Epebu/Emadike, Epebu/Okigbene as well as Pereamabiri in Southern Ijaw local government area.

The youths also lamented that the forest resources of the state have not received sufficient protection from the government and people of the state, adding that flood and erosion constitute a serious threat to the survival of several communities in the state.

These problems, the youths further stated have not received government attention since the Alamieyeseigha administration came to being more than two years ago. "The state lacks a coherent policy for the environment," they said.

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