Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, will in two weeks meet with the top management of Shell Petroleum, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and other relevant stakeholders over planned relocation of the Supply Base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State to Lagos.
The meeting is coming on the heels of an aborted protest by the Rivers State Youth Federation.
It would be recalled that youths and women group in Rivers State have staged peaceful protests to express their displeasure over the planned relocation of the SNEPCO Supply Base from Onne due to its adverse economic and security implications on the state and the entire Niger Delta region.
On Wednesday, the Directorate of State Security (DSS) in Rivers State, together with a former Niger Delta warlord and the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers State, King Ateke Tom had intervened in the matter and stopped a massive protest planned by the Rivers State Youth Federation led by its President, Comrade Saviour Patrick.
To forestall a breakdown of law and order, Ateke Tom and the Rivers State DSS Director held a meeting with Comrade Patrick and representatives of SNEPCO, where it was agreed that the youths would shelve their planned protest while SNEPCO would suspend the planned relocation until after the meeting with Wike.
Sources at the meeting said both the DSS and the Rivers State Government are concerned about the long term security implication for the state should the relocation to Lagos be executed.
The source said, “The youths are upset although the DSS Director told them there was not much they could do, but he is worried that the situation does not degenerate into renewed militant activities in the state.”
The source added that this would not be the first time Shell had attempted to relocate its business from Rivers State. He hinted that Shell’s decision was likely more political than commercial.
In August, 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 Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone to Lagos port.
The President of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, who led the peaceful protest, said the planned relocation would 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.
During the protest, 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 workers 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.