By Kelvin Ebiri
Port Harcourt — Hundreds Onnes youths on Tuesday, stormed the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) base over alleged plan by the company to pull its operations out of the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State.President, Onne Youth Council (OYC), Philip Tenwa, who led the peaceful protest, said they are worried that the relocation of SNEPCo operational activities from Onne to Lagos, would lead to the loss of over 5,000 jobs.
“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,” he said.
He explained that the planned relocation of SNEPCo’s supply base out of the Onne Free Zone would indisputably have adverse implication on the economy of Rivers State and the larger Niger Delta region.
Tenwa observed that while the Federal Government and State Governments in the South-South have assiduously strived to ensure peace in the Niger Delta region, the decision to pull SNEPCo out of Onne to Lagos, might trigger further unrest in the region due to perceived marginalisation.Tenwa stated that in the since 2015, no fewer than 15,000 people have lost their jobs at the Onne Port and the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone as a result of the economic downturn in the country.
Similarly, the monarch of Onne, John Dennis Osaronu, implored President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Nyesom Wike, and other well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on SNEPCo not to relocate from Rivers State.
But spokesperson for SNEPCo, Bamidele Odugbesan, explained that the company has no plan to completely shut down its operation in Onne.”Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) has no intention of shutting down the Logistics Supply Base in Onne, Port Harcourt. The base will continue to be utilised by The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), operator of the SPDC Joint Venture for SPDC Joint Venture operations.
“SNEPCO’s operations are in the Bonga field 120 kilometers off Nigerian coast in the Gulf of Guinea, and our operations staff and contractors work offshore in Bonga,” he added.