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Shell intimidation leads to death of Uzere community members

Uzere community is in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State and the community folks are mainly into fishing and farming.Uzere is host to Shell Petroleum Development Corporation’s (SPDCs) 39 oil wells domiciled in two fields – Uzere East and West, both of which started operation in 1958. The two fields are reputed to be the oldest operating flowstations in Nigeria at the peak production of 56,000 barrel of oil per day.

The Community Development Committee (CDC) of Uzere community sent delegates to communities in Rivers and Bayelsa States were SPDC operates to document findings on so-called development projects in other oil-bearing communities and why there was no development project in Uzere. The delegates were able to discover that the Global Memorandum of Understanding(GMOU) signed by SPDC with the various communities was one of the means of holding the company accountable. Relating what they found with the situation back home, the community folks decided to embark on various activities to press home their demand.

PEACEFUL PROTEST

In February 2011 they wrote to SPDC asking that the company come and discuss with them on mapping and signing of a GMOU.  October same year they sent a reminder to SPDC on the need of signing a GMOU with Uzere community but both requests got no response from SPDC.On the 29th November 2011 they therefore agreed to shut schools, markets and other commercial activities and trooped out en-masse to protest Shell negligence. Over 5000 of the community people including women and children matched to the SPDC Uzere flow station in a peaceful protest.  The company’s reaction to the peaceful protest was violence as it called in the Nigerian Army,and allegedly instructed them to forcefully quell the protests. That incident led to the killing of three community members.

ERA/FoEN learnt that as at on Friday 11th May 2012 the bodies of the dead were still in the mortuary, yet to be buried. Over 100 community persons who sustained injuries from the shootings were also left untreated.It was gathered that over 50 motorcycles belonging to the community folks who came to the peaceful protest were burnt by the army. Two video cameras were also destroyed. A list made available to ERA fact-finding team had 16 names of community folks who suffered various form of indignities.

ERA/FoEN was intimated that after the fiasco at Shell premises the community members matched to the palace of the Ovie (King) of Uzere in anger, accusing him of working with the company to impoverish the community people. By the time they got there they learnt he had ran out of the community, having got wind of information of the planned attack on him. In anger the community members razed down his palace.Other events that followed include the shutting down of gas flow station at Uzere flow station. Till date, the flow station remains shut.

Following this, the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was said to have inaugurated a three-man judicial commission of inquiry into the remote and immediate causes of the incident and also to proffer solutions in their report that would be submitted within 30days of its first public sitting.The team was informed that the judicial commission of inquiry met and while the community was awaiting the recommendations from the commission, on Tuesday 8th May 2012, SPDC deployed 10 soldiers into the community to intimidate the people. This, the community folks believe is a ploy to restart production by force. The soldiers deployed to the community again killed three persons that are yet to be buried.The youths have vowed to stand and fight back.

OBSERVATION

At the flow station in Uzere ERA/FoEN monitor noticed 10 soldiers sitting outside the station but efforts to capture them on camera was not possible.Pretending to be a farmer, ERA/FoEN monitor in company of two community persons were stopped for questioning by the soldiers.It was also observed that the movement of community people to their fishponds and farmland is being restricted by the soldiers at the flow station who stop and question their every move within the community.

ERA/FoEN RECOMMENDS:

•    SPDC/JTF be compelled to redeploy soldiers from the community

•    SPDC be compelled to respect and accede to the demands of Host Communities.

•    SPDC/JTF be compelled to pay compensation for the properties damaged during the peaceful protest.

•    Delta State government be compelled to be transparent and responsive in the implementation of recommendations from the inquiry panel.

•    SPDC and the Nigerian Army should be compelled to take responsibility for the burial of the three dead community members.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Send a letter to your legislator (Local Government, State and Federal) to call SPDC and the Nigerian Army to order.Demand that the compensation should be after the burial, paid to the affected Families for their lost.

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