Itsekiri, Ijaw Women Seize Shell, Chevron Delta Facilities
By Blessyn Okpowo & Sola Adebayo
Vanguard (Lagos) NEWS August 9, 2002
However, Shell said last night in a release signed by the Corporate External Relations Manager, Mr. Donald Boham that the protesters had vacated its Warri access area.
They were protesting alleged non-challant attitude of Shell and Chevron-Texaco managements to their welfare over the years.
The women had a rough deal with security agents in effecting the seizure, leaving 10 of them seriously injured. An Itsekiri woman was beaten to a state of coma.
She was rushed along with others to Shell Clinic at Ogunu for medical attention.
The women were teargassed and brutalised by the security agents in an attempt to disperse them.
The aggrieved women, many of them aged and even young ones mainly from the riverine oil-bearing communities stormed the main gates of Shell Petroleum and Chevron/Texaco as early as 6.30 a.m.
The protesting women defied the intimidating presence of armed soldiers and combat ready anti-riot policemen by chasing away the in-house security personnel of SPDC and Chevron/Texaco before seizing the oil companies.
The women reportedly mobilised from the various riverine communities of Itsekiri, Ijaw and Ilaje before moving into the oil city of Warri, Wednesday night to enable them storm the oil companies before the resumption of duties by the oil workers.
Once they arrived the two companies by 6.30 am, they dislodged the few security personnel on duty before assuming control.
The workers and contractors as well as suppliers who turned up for normal business activities later in the morning were ordered back.
The placards-carrying women waved green leaves and sang solidarity songs to protest long years of alleged criminal neglect and exploitation of their environment by the oil companies and Federal Government.
They barricaded the gates with canopies in a manner suggesting that they were prepared to stay there for as long as necessary. They came with their children and household items, vowing to stay on until the managements of the two oil companies wound discuss their plight.
At SPDC's Ogunu office, the protesting women carried a symbolic coffin of the company's Managing Director.
They had a face-off with security agents posted to SPDC's Ogunu gate during which about 10 of the women sustained varying degrees of injuries. An Itsekiri woman was beaten to a state of coma by the security agents at SPDC's gate opposite Federal Government College (FGC), Warri.
The injured woman was later taken to Shell Clinic, Ogunu for treatment.
A fresh detachment of soldiers and policemen was later sent to the locations around 4.00 p.m yesterday to dislodge the women allegedly on order from the above.
The security agents, especially the police employed tear-gas in a desperate attempt to chase away the women. The protesters, however, stood their ground. They insisted on reaching an accord on their demands with the companies' managements, before they would return home.
Leader of the Itsekiri group, Mrs. Elizabeth Ebiga told Vanguard at Chevron main gate that no amount of intimidation or security clampdown would compel them to abandon the legitimate course.
Ebiga who spoke in pidgin English lamented that the oil companies neither employed their kinsmen nor empowered them (the women and men) to live a decent life.
Leader of the Ijaw group, Mrs. Dorris Kaiaki said the operation of oil companies had resulted in premature death for a number of their people, especially as a result of environmental pollution and degradation.
Kaiaki requested the provision of basic amenities of life, such as light and water and more importantly employment opportunities for the people as the only way out.
Ilaje woman leader, Mrs. B. I. Ugbasanin lamented that while the oil workers enjoyed good life, the inhabitants of the oil-bearing communities wallowed in abject poverty.
Ugbasanin vowed that "all will not be well for the oil companies in our areas until they start treating us as human beings that deserve a good life."
The Commanding Officer of 7th Battalion, Effurun, Col. Gar Dogo warned that his men were solidly on ground to ensure safety of oil workers and equipment.
Dogo warned the indigenes of oil-producing communities against taking the law into their hands, stressing that "there are several legitimate and civilised ways to seek redress."
Protesters vacate Shell
Meanwhile, Shell last night said in a statement: "A group of women protesters, who barricaded and denied some staff of Shell in Warri, access to their offices earlier yesterday have vacated the area, following an understanding reached with the protesters.
"The picketing, it is believed, follows from one held last month by contractor-staff drivers over welfare demands on their employers, who are contractors to SPDC. The protestors were mostly wives and relatives of these drivers.
"The incident, restricted to the gates of our Warri offices, did not affect production and export of crude oil.
"In the meantime, SPDC is making efforts to get the contractors
to talk with their employees."