Some land owners have protested an alleged forceful eviction from their lands by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, for its ENGL Pipelines Enwhe, Gbarain Phase 3A Project (Akenfa/ Okarki axis) in Bayelsa and Rivers States.
The land owners, who on Wednesday stormed one of the project sites located in Okarki, a boundary community in Rivers State, lamented that they had been subjected to inhuman treatment by SPDC for properties acquired without compensation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the protesters, including women and youths, displayed placards with different inscriptions.
Some of the inscriptions read; “Shell, pay us compensation for our land”, “Shell has refused to pay us for our buildings they destroyed”, “Shell is wicked, SPSC stop oppressing us with military”, and “Shell, pay compensation before you work”, among others.
While some of the land owners alleged that they were yet to be given a dime for compensation, others claimed they were threatened to receive paltry sums or risk losing their lands for nothing.
One of the land owners, Ms Ebipadei Ariwei, an indigene of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in Bayelsa, said one hectare of land she acquired in 2011 was forcefully invaded, with no compensation paid.
She alleged that instead, what she got was threats from some agents of SPDC to keep off the land or risk harassment from soldiers.
She said: “I am protesting today on this land because Shell has refused to pay me compensation on my land.
“Without even my knowledge, they came to my land destroyed my buildings and started laying their pipes.
“I am here to protest for them to pay me adequate compensation before they carry on with their jobs.
“I bought this land(one hectare) from Okarki Community in 2011, I have the documents with me.
“Sometimes in 2015, some neighbours called me and informed me that they saw some people clearing my land.
“I immediately rushed down and when I came I saw people clearing the land and demolished my buildings, and when I started asking questions, they told me they were from Shell, and that they were going to pay compensation which never was”.
Continuing, she said, “They called me for negotiation but the negotiation has not come to any understanding, only for me to wake one day to see that without any notification or information, they have invaded the land, destroyed my buildings including economic trees and started laying pipes.
“They are even threatening me that if I don’t give up the land, they are going to use soldiers to harass me, that I don’t have right, and that they will go on with the work without compensation”.
Another land owner, simply identified as Mr Trending Gift, said he was threatened to collect N400,000 for a two plots of land with a two bedroom building on it or risk losing the land for nothing.
He said: “The same thing happened to my building. I bought a land, put a structure. Shell’s coming to the Niger Delta is supposed to be a blessing but now they are sending us to poverty.
“As I am talking to you here now, they are trying to force me to collect peanuts and let go, even as they threatened me that they are going to use force to take the land whether I take the money or not.
“My own is two plots of land with two bedroom building on it and these people said they are offering me N400,000,” he said.
When contacted on the development, the contractors to SPDC, Morpol Engineering Services, said as contractors to SPDC, they are not responsible for the acquisition of lands for the project.
The Social Perform Manager of Morpol Engineering Services, Mr Ayo Adeyemi, told NAN that there is still time for engagement of land owners as the project would end in 2022.
He said: “SPDC are the owners of the project and we are the contractors to SPDC. SPDC are the people that has the responsibility for acquiring lands from different land owners and landlords.
“As soon as they do that, they will give us instructions to go ahead and be working. The instruction that they gave us is that they are engaging the land owners.
“My intention was to see how I could broker that kind of peace between SPDC and the land owners and I tried persuading them that this job is not now, but until next year.
“I think there is actually a communication gap, because SPDC told us not to worry that they are making arrangements to meet with the land owners and settle with them once and for all.
“I will call the SPDC manager and they will be ready to meet with them so that the job can continue,” he said.