As the novel Coronavirus rages on, from Wuhan in China and gradually moved to become a pandemic, so are the attendant problems and fears. PAULINE ONYIBE reports
n Bayelsa State, one of the goose that lays the golden egg, things are no longer at ease as the palliatives from the national level didn’t get to the most vulnerable within the state.
The general complaints is that the state government has not done much for the people of these host communities that feel the impact of the oil pollution, putting into consideration negative impact the oil pollution wrecks on these host communities. According to the community leaders, the oil companies also misplaced their priority by giving the palliatives to the state government to curry favour instead of giving directly to the communities where they operate.
Although Chevron with first E&P through a foundation known as KEFFES gave out about 1600 bags of garri to the communities that make up KEFFES, there seems to be no more record of any other multinational company that gave directly to its host communities. Yet these communities where this black gold is extracted are where real poverty is sighted.
The community people described hunger in their land as hunger virus which they said
kills faster than the Coronavirus. They lack things like good health system, portable drinking water, electricity among other necessities of life.
Just last week, a woman from one of the remote communities gave birth in a boat on her way to the hospital. But for medical personnel with her in the boat, it may have been disastrous. The host communities of these oil companies lamented that they didn’t really get any good palliative both from state government and the oil companies that operate in their domain. They said they were yet to receive enough palliatives commensurate to their sufferings to ease the tension caused by COVID-19. They also disclosed that the sharing was not properly done as they expected the oil companies to come straight to their host communities instead of passing through the state government.
Dr. Benjamin Style, the national chairman of host communities of the Nigeria producing oil and gas (HOSTCOM) said, “it is quite unfortunate that, when the oil companies are donating things to cushion the hard effect of the lockdown, they sent the things to the state. “Truly the host communities have not benefited from those palliatives and these are people that are living within the confinement of these communities. Now they remembered the government and they are giving them to the government and that is what we have been speaking against. “13% derivation comes, they give it to governors, and they collect and use it the way they want. HOSTCOM has a well laid down structure from the national, state to the local governments, clusters of community and that is the right step, these multi nationals ought to have followed, that way, they (communities) will have somebody to be hold responsible. “We thought that they should identify with the right source which is the HOSTCOM a well-known and established platform and that is the only way community will benefit so that they will see who to hold responsible. “We are not benefiting from the palliatives and we are the worst hit. As host community representatives, we have the data base of all the communities in Niger Delta. So we know what to do if they had given us a chance. Just that the oil companies wanted to make name that they have donated to Bayelsa State Government for COVID-19. “For me, this is an avenue for the state government to make money. If they use N1B to buy food stuffs, all Bayelsa people will benefit. Every house hold will have enough to feed on.
Also speaking, His Royal Majesty King Buburaye Dakolo Agada IV of Ekpetiama Kingdom in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa state said Shell which is one of the oil companies operating in the kingdom has given the communities nothing. The King said, “We are not supposed to make moves. Are they not having brains again? SPDC is collecting 2000 barrels of oil from this area every day and they have not brought even a grain of rice to the communities in Gbarain Ekpetiama kingdom.
“For these companies not to respond to us at this critical time means that they want us dead. How can this thing be so threatening and not even a sachet of paracetamol, not even a grain of rice, not even one kobo and they are still burning fire. Fire is burning more than before now. It’s like these oil companies want us to die of this Coronavirus so that they will have unimpeded access to our oil.
The paramount ruler of Elebele community in Ogbia local government of the state, Chief David Osene reacted that, “We have not gotten any palliatives from any company despite that we are oil bearing community. We don’t have any company domiciled in my own area. You know the oil companies live outside Bayelsa. They only come, operate and give the royalties to another state. That is one of our problems here.
“I expect that they should do the needful. Their corporate social responsibilities should be carried out more especially at this point in time of our need. We need them now because it is not to wait till the whole saga will come and start hitting people like it is happening in some other parts of the Nigeria.
Chief Roman Derabebe the paramount ruler of Letugbene community in Ekeremor local government said, “We have not seen anything from any company. We are still talking to Agip and Shell but they have not given us anything.
“Shell said they will give us something but we are yet to see it. We got only fourteen rubbers of beans, some cartons of indomie noodles with eight rubbers of Garri. And this is meant for the entire community.
The Lategbune Vice chairman Community development committee Okoroye Segbe in his reaction maintained that, “Whatever palliatives we got was directly from the state. We don’t know what is happening. They said they have provided assistance to the communities even though they were not much. But we didn’t receive anything from the companies. We have Agip and Shell in this community and we have been affected by the oil pollution for long before the corona virus.
“Here we survive through the water. We do everything in the water. Oil companies should make provision of palliatives for us.
Also the youth president of Elelebe community, Okala Azibola Zico
Said, “to be frank, the polices of government most time are not favourable to the ordinary man because the truth is that there are community leaders and leaders in the local areas that are having direct dealings with their people.
“These are people living in these communities. They will go down and give these things to the right people that needed to get these things.
An environmental right activist and a field worker of Era Moris Alagoa said “this is the time we need to feel the impact of the 13% oil derivation received monthly by the state government on behalf of oil producing communities.
“Unfortunately, the state governments are not doing enough in terms of their corporate social responsibilities to our communities. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong for oil companies in identifying with the state government at times like this because it is a statewide issue.
“If the state government was doing the right thing by even spreading the distribution of the palliatives, there is nothing wrong at all. I say so because if oil companies send palliatives to only host communities what about other communities. Besides, it would be too tasking for the companies to do because they have several host communities in the state. What would be left for state government?
When the spokesperson to Shell Michael Adande was contacted through his e-mail box, he replied; “The priority of Shell companies in Nigeria is the safety and health of our people. Shell companies in Nigeria will continue to work with relevant federal and state government authorities on established health protocol to provide support in the battle to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“For example, The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and its Joint Venture partners were among the earliest corporate organisations to provide concrete support to the Federal Government and to state governments in order to enhance clinical capacities and capabilities across locations where we currently have operations in Nigeria.
“Twice a week, Canvas brings medical experts and other professionals to discuss these behaviour which are seen globally as the safest precautions against contracting the COVID-19.
“We also continue to be a major contributor to the revenue of Nigeria and the Niger Delta States, revenue much needed at this time, by ensuring the safe and continued operations of all our facilities.
He added that, “however, we will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will review our strategies as may be required.