Anglo Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has been urged to relate separately with a different Host Community Development Trust (HCDT) instituted by seven communities in its Estuaries Area, EA, in Eketemor Local Government of Bayelsa state.
The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) (2021) assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 16, 2021, provided for the incorporation of Host Community Development Trust (HCDT) in oil and gas-producing communities.
According to the PIA, the Trust is aimed at fostering sustainable prosperity in the host communities, providing direct social and economic benefits from petroleum operations to the host communities, among other benefits.
Section 240 (2) of the Act provides that oil/gas companies are mandated to make an annual contribution to the Host Community Development Trust Fund of an amount equal to three per cent of the company’s actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year.
Interestingly, Section 236 of the Act gives a time frame for the incorporation of the Trust as within 12 months from the time the law came into force. This implies that since the PIA became effective on August 16, 2021, the Trust is expected to be incorporated on or before August 15, 2022.
Leaders of the communities; Bisangbene, Amatu 1, Amatu II, Letugbene, Orobiri, Ogbintu, Azamabiri, told GbaramatuVoice that they would not hesitate to shut down the company’s operations if their demand was ignored.
In separate interviews Chairman of Bisangbene community, Mr Timothy Geregere and his counterpart in Amatu II community, Comrade Ebis Rames, reiterated their stand that they would not want to be clustered alongside other communities, adding that they had made the position clearly in several letters to the company.
Their statements in parts, : “We want to be treated separately in the EA oil field and we have written several letters to SPDC. We have also demonstrated that we need separation. We will not allow divide and rule in our communities, so we are telling the world that we should be allowed to operate a separate trust.
“The separation is necessary because we are about twelve communities in the EA and the twelve Communities cannot live together. We were initially about four different clans operating the GMoU, when the PIA came they invited us for a meeting, where they told us about it
“Right in the meeting we told Shell that we needed separation but they wanted to force the twelve communities together and we said no.
“The name of these twelve communities are Amatu 1, Amatu 11, Bisangbene, Letugbene, Bilabiri 1, Bilabiri 11, Ikeni, Izetu, Orobiri, Azamagbene, Agge and Ogbintu. While Bisangbene, Amatu 1, Amatu 11, Letugbene, Orobiri, Ogbintu and Azamabiri, are the seven communities that have agreed to work together.
“If there is no separation in the PIA, there will be no operation in the EA field. For the past years, we have been making peace, giving them enabling environment to operate and we have already built peace to almost 89% but they are the ones now causing problem.
“We will shut down their operations, because I think for the past two years, even the GMOU has not being operating properly.
“The Communities are not benefiting anything for the past three years.
“The other challenges we are facing is on community content plan, SPDC brought community content plan to us, I think precisely last year, that Communities should sign and the Communities have signed and SPDC refused to sign its part up till this minute and we are saying they should sign that documents and we also want the GMoU, the remaining part of the GMOU to be paid to the communities,”
The communities also flayed the company for reneging on its alleged promises to employ indigenes of the areas, adding that they should be paid their peace bonus for being peaceful communities.
“There have been no employment from 2000 till now, I think the people they, Shell, employed from our communities are not up to ten and they are like casuals till this moment. No human capital development, No evelopment, we are just suffering.
“Government should tell Shell and the IOC to meet the demand of the communities, or else we will not have any option than to shut the operation till they meet our demands.
“And also, there is agreement between communities and IOC that if there is no disturbance in the operation field there is what they call peace bonus that they will pay to the communities, the place is peaceful up till now but they refuse to pay that peace bonus fees as well, so we are telling them to pay those money as well.”