SPDC reports blockage to offices, residence by disabled persons demanding N567m

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* Persons living with disability say SPDC must regard them as a community

By Codratus Godson

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Thursday, January 21, 2021, reported a siege at their gates in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, blocking access to their Industrial Area (Shell IA) in Rumubiakani and Residential Area (Shell RA) on Aba Road for most of the day.

Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD) in the state however said they had been ignored for too long and that they have now formed a community of their own to seek recognition and attention.

According to a statement signed by the company’s Media Relations Manager, Bamidele Odugbesan, the group of persons that laid siege to their gates claimed to be representing ‘Great Minds Foundation of People Living with Deformities (Niger Delta)’. “They arived the main access gates to our Port Harcourt Industrial Area and Residential Area on 20 January 2021, impeding access, and they have remained there until the time of issuing this statement.

“The group presented a letter, dated 15 January 2021, demanding from SPDC a total sum of N567million for the ‘empowerment’ of its members.

All pleas to them to vacate our access gates and embrace dialogue failed as they presented another request for N20million as a condition to demobilize their members.

“We have shown the group evidence of the many programmes in support of people with special needs both within the Niger Delta and the wider Nigeria. They form a key part of our social investment programmes for vulnerable groups in our communities.

“We believe in dialogue and would advise the group to embrace non-disruptive approach in soliciting support. We are also asking the group to vacate our access gates and premises and desist from threatening and harassing our staff.”

When contacted, the state chairman of PLWD, Kio Obomanu, an ace broadcaster, admitted the action, saying his members had been ignored for too long. Obomanu said a 2013 law giving them right of recognition in the state has been lying fallow without composition of the board.

He said the composition of board would allow them begin to criminalize various acts of neglect visited on disabled persons in the oil region. He lamented lack of employment quota, skill acquisition, empowerment, etc.

He admitted those were the demands placed before SPDC before pleas began leading to emergency resolution including submission of a letter in the coming days. He said it was found from claims from SPDC officials that allocations meant to PLWDs may have been going to ghosts all these years.

Sources SPDC officials were able to pacify the ‘invaders’ to at least vacate the gates to allow work flow freely. Most leaders in the region have been pleading with groups of youths to find other means of communicating their grievances outside invasion and violent protests.

Hopes are high that PLWD would have quota in anything corporate social responsibility programme in the region and that the slots would be conveyed to them trough the PLWD executives to avoid ghost factor.

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