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Bayelsa communities demand separate host trust fund from Shell

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The seven protesting communities occupying Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Estuary Area (EA) in Bayelsa have said that their demand for a separate Host Community Development Trust is not negotiable, saying that SPDC should be held accountable for any breach of the existing peace at the EA for failing to comply with their demand.

The communities had resolved to maintain a peaceful occupation of the EA field around the Sea Eagle Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel while awaiting a favourable resolution at the negotiating table.

Mr Timothy Geregere, Chairman of Bisangbene and representative of the seven host communities, said on Tuesday that the meeting between SPDC officials and the communities on May 30 ended without resolving the dispute.

He said that the oil firm told the seven communities to write to the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) to request that they want a separate HCDT.

“What transpired at the meeting is unacceptable and an indication that SPDC is taking our peaceful disposition for granted, and having exhaustively towed the path of dialogue, the only option left is to shut down the entire field.

“We cannot understand the position that Shell is saying that the EA Host Community Development Trust is subject to intercommunal litigation; why then did they go ahead to incorporate the EA HCDT clustering us with five alien communities?

“We have made it abundantly clear in many letters since the idea was mooted. We want all to know that SPDC should take responsibility for any breach of the existing peace at the EA fields that has pushed us to the wall.

“Their double speak on this matter is unacceptable, it is not in our place to write to NUPRC, it is in their place to give NUPRC, who is the regulator, the constitution of the HCDT. We reject the EA HCDT as currently constituted; it is unacceptable,” Geregere said

The community leader said that a separate HCDT is not negotiable, adding that there are several examples where other oil firms like Chevron and ExxonMobil had to constitute multiple HCDTs in the same field to respect the cultural lineage of host communities

It will be recalled that the communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa took the protest to the EA oilfields, off the Atlantic coastline, on May 20.

The protesters arrived at the EA oilfields on speedboats, chanting solidarity songs in the Ijaw dialect.

The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, he says, mandates oil firms to set aside three per cent of their operational expenses for community development to be managed by HCDT.

He explained that the separation became necessary because the twelve communities in the EA, including five other communities, could not work together.

He said that the seven communities that have resolved to work together are: Bisangbene, Amatu I, Amatu II, Letugbene, Orobiri, Ogbintu, and Azamabiri.

They insisted on having a separate trust from the five other communities, which are Bilabiri 1, Bilabiri 2, Ikeni, Izetu, and Agge.

When contacted, SPDC Spokesperson, Mr. Michael Adande, said the matter was already in court.

“The EA Host Communities Development Trust is a subject of intra-communal litigation, the outcome of which is being awaited before any further steps by the SPDC.”

SPDC declined comments on the outcome of the May 30 meeting that took place in Yenagoa.

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