Shell warns of safety risks at occupied Nigeria plant
LAGOS - Agence France-PresseRoyal Dutch Shell has raised an alarm over the continuing siege at a Nigerian facility by protesters, saying they could be putting their safety at risk.
Hundreds of protesters from the Kula and Belema communities in Nigeria’s restless southern Rivers state have occupied the plant since Aug. 11 to press their demands for jobs and better living conditions.
“The illegal occupation of Belema Flow Station and Gas Plant in Rivers State has safety implications both for the people at the facilities and nearby communities,” the company’s Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company, said in a statement on Sunday.
It said it was “deeply concerned that unauthorized persons, including women and children, have been observed in close proximity to equipment that processes crude oil and gas without the protection of safety clothing.”
Shell said the occupation “exposes people at the plant to higher safety risks as anything could trigger a spill or fire with potentially serious consequences.”
The company said it had not been able to gain access to the plant since the seizure, and called on the protesters to leave.
The protesters also want Shell to shift the operation of the plant to a local company.
“We want Shell to hand over the operations of the flow station to Belema Oil Company because it appreciates our challenges and needs,” community leader Godson Egbelekro told AFP.
The plant transports crude oil to the Bonny Light export terminal, which has a production capacity of 225,000 barrels per day.
In 1993, Shell was forced to quit operation in Ogoniland because of community unrest, but the company still runs a network of pipelines in the area.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer with some two million barrels per day, relies on the sector for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 70 percent of government revenue.