Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, has told Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) that the state will no longer accept the disdainful attitude of the multinational oil firm towards the people of the state.
Shell has been operating in Ukwa West local government area of the state since 1958, and long before the creation of Abia State in 1991.
Governor Ikpeazu who frowned at the oil company for non remittance of taxes to the state government, also wondered why the company neglected oil bearing communities, where oil exploration activities of the firm has caused untold health and environmental challenges to the life and properties of the people.
Speaking at a meeting with the management of Shell at the Abia State Government House Umuahia, the Governor said he convened the meeting between the Government and Shell after his recent tour of oil installations at Owaza and other oil bearing communities in the state.
He said that the meeting is aimed at resolving the issues of neglect of oil communities in Ukwa West as well as the non remittance of taxes to the state government by the oil companies operating in the state.
“I am aware that previous attempts to get Shell to pay tax to Abia State failed, which means we are only oil producing state on paper. What it means also is that you don’t even have people of the oil bearing communities working in your company since their taxes cannot be paid to Abia. Your workers live in Port Harcourt and work Abia. What will happen if you employ our people who will live and work in our state?” The Governor asked.
Ikpeazu, who commended the youth of the oil communities for their peaceful disposition to the oil company, also said that there is need for the company to review its relations with their host community and the state government.
“Shell has not been very fair to Abia State and the Ukwa West people in particular. I do not see why there is no Shell office with staff in Umuahia, even if it is just for the management of their office sweepers. If it is just to rent a flat and put Shell logo there so that if the oil communities want to complain they go there. It is very provocative.”
“In this country today, we need some stability in the oil producing areas in Nigeria so that our National economy can crawl back to life and whatever you do to disrupt operations of oil companies has a way of getting back to the community because if we don’t produce oil, we don’t sell, it we don’t sell we cannot get out of recession.”
Governor Ikpeazu, who also expressed dissatisfaction with Shell’s intervention in the oil communities since its inception said: ” I listened carefully to some of the interventions that Shell has made. Whether Shell came in 1958 or 1964, there is just nothing to show commitment to the community where your operations have been going on smoothly while your corporate social responsibility practices leave much to be desired.
“We are very proud of the disposition of the youths of Ukwa West and other LGAs where big companies do business in Abia State. We are very proud of them in the sense that now that militancy and disruptions of oil business has become the order of the day, we make bold to state that in Abia state our people have comported themselves in the most orderly way.” The Governor said.
Speaking, the leader of Shell delegation to the meeting, who is also the Land East Manager of Shell, Mr Sam Ezugworie thanked the Governor for the meeting and said that his company is prepared to collaborate with the state government and host communities to improve things. He disclosed that the company had in the last 6 years expended N420m as its social investmeant in its host communities of Owaza, one of the oil bearing communities in Ukwa West.
Mr Ezugwurie further stated that the company has offered scholarships to 457 secondary school students and 74 university students while 210 persons have benefited from their enterprise development activities in addition to building a cottage hospital and five legacy projects in the last 6 years.
On his side, Chief Sam Nwogu who spoke on behalf of the host communities, disclosed that 3 oil wells in Uzoaku in Ukwa West are tagged to Obigbo in Rivers State without any revenue coming to Abia and pleaded with the Governor to prevail on the SPDC to change the name IMO River to reflect the community where the oil is produced.