A group of community women in Rivers State yesterday vowed to storm the Supply Base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) in the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, naked to stall an alleged plan by the company to relocate the supply base to Lagos.
The women’s threat is coming barely three weeks after some youths under the aegis of the Onne Youths Council (OYC) staged a peaceful protest at the SNEPCO base, asking the company to rescind its decision to relocate the Supply Base from the free zone to the Lagos port.
The president of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, who led the peaceful protest, had said that the planned relocation would lead to the loss of more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
But speaking in Port Harcourt yesterday, leader of the Concerned Community Women of Rivers (COCOWOR), Henrietta Edumoh, said her group is concluding plans to mobilise women from all over Rivers State to storm the SNEPCO Supply Base, Onne, naked as a way of registering their displeasure over the planned relocation.
She said, “As mothers, we cannot fold our arms and watch our husbands and children being mercilessly thrown out of their jobs.
“If SNEPCO relocates its Supply Base from Onne, it means those who work there, numbering thousands of people will lose their jobs. It also means that our people who try to make ends meet by doing small contracts or trading around that facility will suffer.
“How do you want those people to cater for themselves and their families? What have they done wrong? What crime did they commit?”
Edumoh said the SNEPCO Supply Base relocation will not only throw more people into the labour market, but also has the potential of rocking the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.
“They say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If people don’t have jobs to do, that’s when they begin to conceive criminal ideas. We don’t want that to happen in our communities so we beg them not to leave Onne because Onne has been very good to them. It has been a very peaceful community which has supported their business very well for many years,” she said.
The COCOWOR leader said the planned protest will only be shelved if her members get the assurance that SNEPCO will rescind its decision to relocate.
Various interest groups including workers, stakeholders and community leaders have kicked against the planned relocation of the SNEPCO Supply Base out of Onne.
In addition to staging a peaceful protest, the Onne Youth Council also said it would send petitions to relevant authorities including President Muhammdu Buhari; Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike; the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA); the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to prevail on SNEPCO to rescind its decision because of its consequences on the economy of Rivers State and the wellbeing of the people.
“The times are hard because in the past three years, no fewer than 15,000 people have lost their jobs at the Onne Port and the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone as a result of the economic downturn in the country.
“We think SNEPCo should not compound this situation with the relocation of their Supply Base to Lagos,” the President of OYC, Comrade Philip John Tenwa, said.
The Paramount Ruler of Onne, King John Dennis Osaronu, also lent his voice to the call on SNEPCO to rescind its relocation decision.
The monarch appealed to “President Buhari, Governor Wike, and other well-meaning Nigerians to stop this move by SNEPCO”.
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