Shell Nigeria lays off thousands amid violent attacks

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Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, has began sacking its employees as part of a cost-cutting effort in response to the increasing wave of attacks and kidnappings, which has reduced its oil production operations in the region.

Widespread redundancies have hit the Niger Delta region of Nigeria as Shell’s Eastern Operations lays off workers, mostly those in its Logistics and Marine Sections. The exercise is reported to be based on their staff’s annual performance as contained in their Individual Performance Factor (IPF) for 2008. But some of the workers have indicated that the oil company deliberately scored them low in their IPF for 2008, to pave the way for their exit from the company.

Shell has rubbished the accusations while stating in the dismissal letters, post-dated to take effect from 31st of March, that it was downsizing to reduce cost of operations. The company’s Chief Executive, van der Veer, confirmed at a London conference that the shortage in production was due to the heightened insecurity in the region.

Shell oil company, which allegedly enjoyed the support of the Federal Government forces to unleash unfriendly environmental practices on the largely impoverished inhabitants of the oil-rich region, has seen very little support in recent months as more threats are being delivered to them from rebel militia. The oil company was accused of helping the Nigerian military to carry out attacks on the group’s camps in Rivers State.

Shell is reported to be the worst hit by the unrest in the Niger Delta, where its crude oil output has been on a steady decline since the crisis peaked. Rebels, criminals and genuine agitators in the Niger Delta now see Shell as the face of the unwholesome policy of environmental degradation and resource exploitation.

Suspected loyalists of Kitikata, a militant leader linked with the recent slaughter of soldiers in the Niger Delta region, reportedly invaded Shell’s Nembe Creek flow station in Bayelsa State. An official of Shell was last month quoted as affirming that the company had commenced preparations to evacuate its staff from the Niger Delta after a militant group issued a warning to quit the region or risk more attacks.

Shell had suspended its intention to reduce its 3,500 work force in the country by 1,500 in order to reduce cost of operations after President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua reportedly met with the company’s out-going Chief Executive Officer, Jeroen van der Veer, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum. But in the wake of incessant and unrelenting attacks, the oil company will go ahead and downsize.

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