Port Harcourt — Five months after it shut down Shell flow station at Belema, hundreds of indigenes of Kula are still occupying Shell flow at Belema in Akuku-Torlu Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The indigenes, drawn from Offoinama, Belema and Ngeje, occupied the flow station in August 2017 shortly after it was shut down by irate youths of the community.
A visit by our reporter to the flow station at the weekend revealed that hundreds of nursing mothers, men and youths are still occupying the facility.
The angry indigenes of the communities told visiting Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by a member of the Presidential Committee on Niger Delta, Elder Timi Ogoriba, that they will not leave the flow station until Shell's operational lease for OML 25 was withdrawn.
The spokesman of the group and the paramount ruler of Offoinama community, High Chief Ibiosiya Sukubo, said the communities in Kula have contributed over 200,000 barrels of crude oil and 150 million standard cubic feet of gas for Shell exploration, adding that the company's operation in the area had caused serious ecological and aquatic devastation.
He said the communities' natural source of income of fishing had been decreasing, stressing that Shell's 40 years of exploration had brought so much pain and agonies to the host communities.
He said the host communities lacked social amenities such as pipe-borne water, electricity and good health facilities, adding that the impact of oil exploration in the area has reduced life expectancy to a very low level.
He said "We are prone to serious ecological hazards like earthquake and tsunami. The natural source of income which is fishing has been a diminution. SPDC has been at the centre stage operating in the area for almost 40 years without the provision of basic amenities to at least alleviate the suffering of the people.
"There is no portable water, good school, electricity, roads, health facilities in the area. In fact life expectancy is very low hence in early August 2017, the communities rose up in anger and shut down its operations in OML25 especially at the expiration of its lease.
"The information was that SPDC is concluding plans to divest the said field to an indigenous company which further exacerbates the opprobrium. Hence the Kula communities of Belema, Offoinama and Ngeje stood to resist it.
"We made our position very clear during our meeting with NNPC in Abuja that divestment must be transferred to Belema oil and gas company which is an indigenous company with good track record.
"The constant depletion of zooplanktons and the phytoplankton which are basic elements of eco-balancing is contributing to the near extinction of the great community without proper mitigation plan."
One of the women occupying the flow station, Mrs Ekine Johnbull, said the indigenes of the communities will continue to occupy the flow station until the Federal Government yielded to their demand and transferred the Shell lease license to Belema oil.
Shell spokesman, Mr Joseph Ollor Obari, did not respond to text message sent to him on the matter.
But a press statement issued by him earlier stated that the company had carried out several developmental projects worth millions of dollars in the affected communities.