‘5,000 jobs at risk’ — Rivers youth ask Shell not to leave Onne

More than 1,000 youth under the aegis of the Onne Youths Council (OYC) on Tuesday staged a protest at Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) in Onne, Rivers state.

The protesters asked the company to rescind its decision to relocate its supply base from the free zone to Lagos port.

Philip John Tenwa, president of OYC, who led the protest, said the planned relocation will lead to the loss of more than 5,000 direct and indirect 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,” he said.

“Indeed, SNEPCo last week 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.”

Tenwa also said the relocation would have a negative effect on the economy of Rivers and the Niger Delta region.

“It will also put the means of livelihood of many families and the future of our children at risk as well as further swell the burgeoning unemployment market in the Niger Delta region,” he said.

“SNEPCo suppliers and vendors are based in the communities around Onne and in the larger Niger Delta region. The suppliers and vendors deliver various items and supplies to the SNEPCo Supply Base in Onne. The planned relocation of the Supply Base to Lagos will directly affect not just the company’s staff but also these suppliers and vendors. It is also bound to affect the community staff working for SNEPCo,” the Onne Youths Council President said.

He said while the Federal Government and State Governments in the South-South have worked hard to ensure peace in the Niger Delta region, the relocation of the SNEPCo to Lagos has the potential of jeopardizing the peace currently being enjoyed in the region.

The protesting youths later moved from the SNEPCo supply base to the palace of John Osaronu, paramount ruler of Onne,where they informed the king of their action.

Osaronu commended the youth for their peaceful conduct and also called on SNEPCo to rescind its decision to leave the community.

“We appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Nyesom Wike and other well-meaning Nigerians to stop this move by SNEPCo,” he said.