By Patience Danjuma
A massive protest planned by the Rivers State Youth Federation at the Supply Base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) in the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, was on Wednesday stalled by the intervention of former Niger Delta warlord and the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers State, His Royal Majesty, King Ateke Tom and the Director, Department of State Security Services (DSS) in the state.
The protesting youth had gathered in their hundreds in Onne early Wednesday morning and were about marching on the SNEPCO Supply Base when the royal father and DSS Director intervened, prevailing on them to allow dialogue before the planned protest.
National President of the Rivers State Youth Federation, Saviour Patrick was subsequently invited into a meeting with the duo to discuss the grievances of the youths.
According to Patrick, the group is protesting the plan by SNEPCO to relocate its Supply Base from Onne, Rivers State to Lagos; a move which he said will lead to significant job loss in Rivers State.
The outcome of the meeting was unknown as at press time.
Last month, more than 1,000 youths under the aegis of the Onne Youths Council (OYC) staged a peaceful protest at the SNEPCO Supply Base, asking the company to rescind its decision to relocate the base from the free zone to the Lagos port.
The President of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, who led the peaceful protest, said the planned relocation will lead to the loss of more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions condemning the planned relocation of the SNEPCO Supply Base and also requested relevant authorities to intervene in the matter.
He said, “We are here today on behalf of our numerous members and indeed the entire Onne Community to draw the attention of the Nigerian government and indeed the world to the plan by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to relocate its Supply Base from the Onne Port to Lagos. Indeed, SNEPCO last week surreptitiously directed that all its property and equipment including turbines, engine spares and miscellaneous equipment spares be loaded into containers and moved out of the Onne Port, where it had operated for more than 20 years, to another port in Lagos.
“This move by SNEPCO has serious and far-reaching implications for the Onne community and indeed the entire Rivers State. This is because SNEPCO, which is the operator of the Bonga field, at present, supports more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs at its Supply Base in Onne. There are also several small businesses and contractors whose businesses and fortunes are tied to SNEPCO.”
SNEPCO have also kicked against the company’s plan to move the Supply Base from Onne to Lagos.
The workers, in a press release made available to newsmen on August 2, 2018 described the planned relocation as hurried and ill-advised and against the interest of the Niger Delta region.
The press release signed by one Edward Otaru reads: “We, the affected operations staff and expatriates of SNEPCO wish to bring the attention of the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians of a plan by the management of our company to forcefully relocate our operations from Onne, Port Harcourt to Lagos.
“The hushed, hurried but forceful relocation order emanated under a strange and suspicious condition, as it was neither discussed with the staff nor backed by any justifiable reasons.
“We decided to bring this hurried relocation order to the notice of the government and the general public because of its implication on our families and friends who might suffer unnecessary dislocation and also its implication on the Niger Delta region.
“The ill-advised plan to move men and materials from the Niger Delta region to Lagos is also contrary to the directive of the Federal Government, which in 2017 asked oil companies to retain their headquarters in their operational bases in the Niger Delta region.”
The workers called on the Federal Government to halt the planned movement in the interest of jobs and development of the Niger Delta region.
The Paramount Ruler of Onne Community, King John Dennis Osaronu, also recently called on SNEPCO to rescind its planned relocation from the community.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Nyesom Wike “and other well-meaning Nigerians to stop this move by SNEPCO.”
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