Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) says it has so far transferred over N10 billion to the accounts of host communities in the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) in 2017 mandate year. The general manager said this new push took effect in recent year when the communities got their allocations fast, just to ease tension in communities.
SPDC’s general manager, external relations, Igo Weli, disclosed this in the presence of the finance officer at the Shell Residential Area Recreation Club on Monday, when the clusters and boars turned out to defend their projects before a panel which included government officials and top journalists.
Weli said it was important for the experts to hear what was released to communities in such a short time and what they did with the funds; in the face of massive denials that “Shell did nothing in the communities.”
The Akuku-Toru Board got the highest (N2.3bn) while some others such as RA Cluster and Abual/Odual got between N300m and N500m within the mandate years. Two major issues stuck out, litigations and insecurity hampered progress in some clusters. Some chairmen even pleaded for special provision for litigations but Weli turned down the request, saying issues would b looked at individually.
On demands for increase in funds, the GM made it clear that such demands were in the hands of the host communities. “If vandalism and bunkering reduce and income of Shell increases, we will increase your mandate. In that case, that aspect is in your hands”.
Over 20 clusters and boards from Rivers State and Abia (Owaza) alone testified that production had increased in their respective areas due to the GMoU activities and urged Shell to do more.
Some of the communities showcased up to 42 projects while some had only 12, showing the volume of oil extracted in their areas. The most exciting were the Ogoni communities who stopped producing oil since 1993 but who still got GMoU grants and LiveWire projects.
The GM thus warned oil communities to get the best they could from crude oil while it lasted because it may no longer be a proud product. He also said if Shell is drive out, as a global brand, it could adjust, but wondered if the communities could also adjust.
Most of the board chairmen put in strong words for Shell, saying most of those condemning SPDC do not come from oil bearing communities. “Do not listen to them. They are professional agitators. They cannot come to our communities to stop our GMoU projects.”
Some cluster chairmen said some persons who mocked the GMoU concept at the beginning were now making trouble to join while some communities that vandalized oil facilities are now begging Shell to return to their communities due to the avalanche of projects that are being executed and commissioned almost on weekly basis.
They said the new approach must be sustained and boosted in the coming years, saying this was the best way to engage with the host communities.