Monday, June 24, 2019 10:05 am
Shell Vs Host Communities of OML-25 stand off
…Governor Wike directs disputing parties to resolve issues and re-open the facility in 7-Days
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has directed all parties in dispute over the Oil Mining Licence, OML-25 to resolve all contending issues within 7 days and reopen the oil facility.
The OML-25 Oil field facility operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company was forcibly shutdown by members of the host communities on August 10, 2017 over allegation that the multinational oil firm had failed to to respects the terms of Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) it signed with the communities in area of empowerment, provision of social amenities, employments among others.
However arising from the meeting heldi in Government House, Por Harcourt, Governor Wike directed the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo to convene a meeting of all key stakeholders in the presence of Security Service Commanders for the host communities to outline their grievances to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and for the company to address such development concerns.
Governor Wike spoke at a meeting with the management of the SPDC, Belemaoil Limited, Host Community Leaders and Security Service Commanders at the Government House Port Harcourt on Saturday.
Traditional Rulers, Elected Leaders, Youth Leaders and Chairmen of Community Development Committees from Kula, Belema, Offoin-Ama, Opu-Kula and Ibiame of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area attended the meeting.
Addressing the meeting, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike said he called the meeting because the closure of OML 25 is negatively affecting Federal, State and Local Government funds.
He said: “OML 25 has been shutdown for one reason or the other. Some persons in the community are hauling insults at me. No matter the insult, nothing will make me not to perform my duty to the area.
“The Federal Government, the State Government and the Local Government are losing funds with the continued closure of the OML 25. If Shell is behaving wrongly, tell them and if Belemaoil is behaving wrongly, tell them.
“It is wrong for anyone to say that the Federal Government is handling the matter. When conflicts of this nature affect the communities, it is for the State and Local Government Area to resolve them”.
Governor Wike said he has no hand in the drilling of oil or the issuance of licenses, but he is committed to peace and security in communities for the development of the state.
He said that the issue is on the economic development of the host communities, Rivers State and Nigeria and should not be politicised.
Speaking at the meeting, Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Mr Osagie Okunbor said that the company operates the OML 25, with the operating license renewed by the Federal Government for another 20 years.
He said: “We operated in a cordial environment until 10th August, 2017 when some community people entered the facility. The information that was given to us was that they were unhappy over issues of social amenities and employment . We listened and we were keen to address these issues.
“But at some point another element entered the equation, which was that we should relinquish and hand over to Belema Oil, that is from the community “.
The Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company said that the company has since paid all necessary fees for the renewed OML 25 in October 2018.
“We have made all the payments and it is our facility. We are keen to return to the facility and operate for the benefit of all. I have made myself available to talk to many of the stakeholders from the communities to try and understand what the issues are and how we will go about resolving them”, he said.
He welcome the intervention of the Rivers State Governor.
He noted that Shell Petroleum Development Company is prepared to address the social amenities, empowerment and other issues raised by the host communities.
In his remarks at the meeting, Acting Managing Director of Belema Oil, Mr Mufa Welch denied the involvement of the company in the closure of OML 25, but stated that the host communities prefer Belema oil to take over.
He, however, admitted that SPDC are the licenced operators of OML 25, describing Belema Oil as stakeholders with over 7 percent share. According to him, the people prefer Belema Oil because of the way it operates OML 55 which it inherited from Chevron.
“With the way we operate, the communities are bent towards us. The communities love the way we operate and the way we do things. That OML has been closed for almost two years. We have nothing in the shutdown of the OML . But the communities are bent towards us, the way we do things”, he said.
Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Mr Rowland Sekibo said Belema Oil management created the impression that they bought the OML 25 from Shell Petroleum Development Company, but the company refused to transfer the operational right. He said that a meeting with stakeholders at NNPC Abuja, it was discovered that the license of OML 25 was still under the ownership of Shell.
He said though the owner of Belema Oil is from the area, it was illegal to shutdown the oil production facility in order to arm twist the system to sell it to Belema Oil. He said such action would negatively affect other Rivers businessmen with oil operating licenses in other states.
Also speaking, Hope Osusingi, the Amanyanabo of Opu-Kula said that the people of the Area were initially misled into shutting down OML 25.
He said that after some stakeholders discovered that in reality the operating license of SPDC had been renewed, they resolved to tow the path of economic development.
But with the resolute stand of the host communities through their respective traditional rulers in which they vowed that any outcome of the meeting in Government house would not be binding on them, and that the OML-25 oil field facilities would not be opened for business until SPDC vacates the facility and gives up its OML-25 operating rights, it remain to be seen if the Governor’s order will be complied with.