- By Wike’s Port Harcourt lockdown
Oil and gas business and related operations of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and other international hydrocarbon companies are receiving severe strain from Governor Nyesom Wike’s total lockdown and a 24-hour curfew of Port Harcourt metropolis, Nigeria’s oil hub.
All the oil and gas companies run offices and/or trans-shipment bases in Port Harcourt, but all that has now been completely locked up by the governor’s measures which he said were to curtail the spread of the novel COVID-19, when he gave a state broadcast last Monday.
By Friday, the second day into the lockdown and a 24-hour curfew it was quite clear that the measure was extremely impacting on the oil and gas companies’ operations. The entire metropolis was completely bereft of any human activity, let alone taking any oil business. Helicopter flights by mainly Bristow and Caverton that are part of Port Harcourt daily business, were absent.
Friday, Udoh, a gas value-chain expert, a chartered economist and chief coordinator of Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN), south-south zone, told our correspondent from his base in Eket, Akwa Ibom State that locking down Port Harcourt, which is Nigeria’s oil industry capital, is akin to a production shut-in.
Governor Wike had specifically said in his broadcast that the state government was reviewing all requests for waivers and entry permits from oil and gas companies, and such would be only considered on a case-by-case basis.
He also said that “all inward-bound vehicles and flights into Rivers State from oil and gas companies with workers for crew change or other essential operations must first submit details of their manifests to the State’s taskforce on COVID-19 for proper vetting of their virus status before they can be allowed to enter the State.”
Additionally, he warned that all operators of chartered flights into the state for oil and gas operations, especially Bristow and Caverton Helicopters, must comply with the pre-submission directive, and must “refrain from jeopardizing the lives of our people for the sake of making profits.”
LNG, Shell, Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals, Notore Fertilizer and Chemicals, and other key oil and gas companies operating around Port Harcourt metropolis have been requesting for waivers from Governor Wike, to enable them continue with their oil/gas operations in the state. but this time, the governor said the state’s COVID-19 taskforce committee must scrutinize all the waivers, stamp approval before the companies can be allowed to set sail.
For Governor Wike, the oil companies are to blame for the rather rising COVID-19 positive cases in Rivers, with three new cases recorded again from initial 14. As a result, they must be kept at bay; or better still, their operations carefully controlled. He had flatly accused some offshore oil workers who were flown by Bristow Helicopters into the state on April 29, from an offshore facility in Akwa Ibom State, of bringing in the 14th positive case.
“These positive cases have shown and confirmed our fears that unvetted entry of oil and gas workers from Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere remains a potential source for the importation and spread of COVID-19 in our state.”
Meanwhile, Shell’s deputy managing director, Simon Roddy, had on Wednesday donated some testing machines to Governor Wike in Port Harcourt, thanking him for granting the company “accelerated approvals for the movement of personnel on essential duties and equipment to support oil production.”