A new dimension has been introduced to the Niger Delta crisis with hundreds of protesters keeping their promise to occupy Belema Flow Station, a major outflow facility, in Rivers for two weeks starting from Friday.
The oil facility, which is said to belong to an oil major in Nigeria, Shell Oil, was forced to shut down, according to an eye witness.
Protesting youths, wielding clubs and branches of trees had taken over the entire vicinity promising to vacate only if there is concrete evidence from the company to provide needed infrastructure in the area, particularly water and electricity, in addition to job creation.
A leader of the protesters, David Ibrumo said: “We are using the protest as a warning of what will later follow, if the government fails to persuade the company to listen to our demands.
“The management knows that we have been patient, given the years of unfulfilled promises to us, but to confuse the issues, Shell has chosen to describe us as militants, which we are not, as you can see half of the protesters are graduates on related fields for which the company sources staff outside its immediate environment.”
It would be recalled that just recently, the cordinator of Niger Delter Elders Forum, Chief Edwin Clark , after giving the Federal Government an ultimatum to keep to its promise to the demands of the region on infrastructure development had a meeting with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, and agreed to give peace a chance.
This new wave of crisis was said to have been prompted by apparent dismissal of the Osinbajo-Clark parley, which the protesters described as a disservice, delaying promised developmental programme for the region.
But contrary to expectations, the soldiers and other security guards in the area did not disperse the protesters, who had easy entry to the main entrance and exit gates of the Belema Flow Station
However, unconfirmed reports say the security operatives were awaiting further directive before use of physical force to regain the occupied oil facility from the mob, especially as it claimed they flow station would be occupied for two weeks.
When contacted, there was no official reaction from Shell on the development, though a staff, who pleaded for anonymyty, said based on information on Thursday that the locals were planning a protest, management directed that vital units be shut down pending further development.
He disclosed that Bonny Light crude oil is currently under force majeure due to the closure of the Trans Niger Pipeline, while exports have continued through a second pipeline in the Nembe Creek Trunk Link.
Top government functionaries, who have been optimistic that oil exports from Nigeria would improve in August, now fear that the feat may not be actualised if there were renewal of disruption of production in the oil-rich region.
Nigerian oil production fell to just over 1 million barrel per day at the mid of 2016, but has substantially recovered due to a relative decline in the number of attacks on pipelines.