Contrary to insinuations that the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) had not done much for its host communities in the Niger Delta, the oil giant said Friday that it had spent at least N7 billion on providing basic infrastructure between January and August this year.
Representatives of the multinational company told journalists in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during a two-day SPDC-JV Integrated Stakeholders Engagement that much of the funds were used in financing General Memoranda of Understanding (GMoUs) with the host communities including building schools, hospitals and skills acquisition.
Dr. Alice Ajeh, the company’s Stakeholders Relations Manager, who represented Mr. Igo Weli, General Manager External Relations, said on the sidelines of the event which was also attended by the security agencies, that the funds were jointly managed by Shell, government and the communities.
“We have spent N7 billion in the Niger Delta this year in the GMoU clusters, not in Bayelsa alone. What happens with the GMoUs is that we agree with the communities in the programme they will have and shell puts money into it. So that money goes into an account that shell, government and the communities operate.
“Many of the areas include health, education, entrepreneurial development and other infrastructural development. But that is what has been released, it does not mean that that is all we are spending,” she said.
The company also reiterated its earlier position that it had between 2012 and 2016 along with its partners contributed $29 billion to the Nigerian government while $1.8 billion was paid to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since inception in 2002.
Data made available by the oil company also indicated that its share of royalties and corporate taxes paid to the Nigerian government stood at $ 1.04 billion in 2016, while 94 per cent of Shell’s contracts were now awarded to Nigerian companies amounting to $ 0.74 billion.
It also showed that 96 per cent of the entire Shell employees in the country were Nigerians while direct spending on social investment by the company and its partners was $29.8 million.
Ajeh said the consultations with stakeholders had become important so as to iron out areas of disagreements as well as update them on the direction the oil and gas industry was headed globally.
“We are here because we believe that we need to discuss with our stakeholders and we are holding these meetings according to clusters. We are opening up the conversation. It’s not about Shell but about the Niger Delta, our challenges, but also challenges of the delta and how we can solve them,” she said.
The Shell representative added , “ We would like everybody to see the issues the way we see them and also make recommendations and solutions as a people. We are bringing global issues to the people’s attention.
“Sometimes they don’t know. We have not come here for a finger pointing exercise . It’s about looking at the issues and how we can deal with them differently. How the Niger Delta can take advantage of what is going on so that we are not stranded by what is going to happen.”
She stated that many countries were opting for viable alternatives to oil, stressing that Norway had already said that by 2025 there would be no oil and gas powered vehicle while the United Kingdom (UK) pegged theirs at 2040, whereas 80 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue still comes from the product.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa, Mr. Amba Asuquo, called for collective action to stop vandalism and oil theft by all stakeholders, including the oil companies and the communities, adding that the only way peace could be achieved was by working together.
He urged stakeholders to prioritise the prevention of crimes rather than waiting for them to happen since it is cheaper to do so.
The CP called on the communities to give information to the security agencies that could lead to nipping sabotage in the bud.
“The companies must be responsive and listen to the genuine concerns of the people even though some of these concerns constitute a burden to them. The police have created three separate departments to take care of these issues.
“One of them is physical infrastructure department, another is the conflict resolution department and special intelligence bureau. These are departments set up to reduce conflict among the stakeholders.
“But I will not fail to add that the company should look at how to make the departments more functional, in terms of vehicles, computers so we can have some data on these people carrying out these acts,” he said.
Mr. Braboke Stanley, Director-General, Bayelsa State Partnership Agency, advised that the communities should no longer shut down operations of oil concerns out of anger thereby causing damage to the facilities.
“As a government, we are also saying the companies should review some of their GMoUs. There are some grey areas that need to be reviewed. If the communities are developed, the state will develop,” he said.
He added that the governor had empowered the office to receive all manners of complaints from communities and the oil companies and address them within the shortest possible time.