Tuesday, July 16, 2019 5:13 pm
Okafor Ofiebor-Reporting from Kula
The hope for a quick resolution to the shutdown Oil Mining Lease, OML-25 by the host communities in Kula Kingdom of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, is not on sight as they have unequivocally declared that they would not vacate the Belema Flow Station, which they had occupied since August 2017.
Some leaders of the host of Offoinama, Belema and Ngeje communities had on June 27,signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with the operator of the facility, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Government House in Port Harcourt with a view to reopening of the flow station.
However in a trip at the weekend by over 40 journalists drawn from both local and international media to the host communities and shutdown flow station, the host communities, including Belema, Offoinama and Ngeje, renewed their resolve to not vacate the flow station, until SPDC is sacked from operating in the facility that produces over 44,000 barrels of crude oil and 103,000metric cubic feet of Gas per day.
In a joint world press conference addressed at Offoin-Ama community at the weekend in Offoinama, by Alabo Engr. Fiala Okoye-Davies, the spokesman of the Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers and Secretary, Belema Council of Chiefs, said the decision to shut the flow station was based on past perennial breaches of GMoUs and outright refusal of SPDC to provide basic social amenities for the people for over 40 years of oil and gas exploitation and exploration in the area.
Our correspondent who was among the team of journalists reports that tour of Offoinama , Belema Ngeje communities revealed vexatious realities of neglect, abject poverty, and environmental degradation. Okoye-Davies lamented what he termed the host communities’ ordeal of exploitation, poverty, diseases and underdevelopment that have characterized their over 40 years of relationship with SPDC.
He said: “The ill-operating partern that resulted in 2005 and 2014 shut-down which ended up with GMoU which the SPDC honoured till date in spite of impoverishment. SPDC in 2013, placed OML-25 for divestment at $450m to some of its staff and former retirees of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with the name Crester. The communities protested because we refused to be handed over from one foreign slave master to another local company whose antecedent is known to us.”
On the claim by the SPDC that it had spent over 300 million dollars in Belema community alone, Okoye-Davies debunked the claim, stating that a joint investigative team sent to verify the company’s claim was dodged by the multi-national oil giant. He said the host communities demanded among other things, that SPDC operatorship license on OML-25 be revoked and handed over to an indigenous operator with proven capacity to develop its host communities.
The spokesman said: “We demand that in divesting the OML25, the right of first refusal should be given to the Belema community the Belemaoil Producing Limited. While we demand that the Rivers State government should not use security agencies to harass our communities, we appeal to President Mohammadu Buhari to set up a fact-finding committee to visit the area ‘to see the level off neglect, backwardness and suffering of a people that have hosted shell for over 40 years, with a view to setting us free from SPDC.”
Also speaking at the press conference, the Amanyanabo of Kula and Chairman, Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers (KSCTR), King Kroma Eleki Sara XIV, in Akuku-Toru Local Government, said he participated in the signing of the GMoU at Government House, Port Harcourt because of his position as Paramount Ruler of the area. Eleki insisted that the agreement did not mean that SPDC should cede OML-25 to foreigners because the company is still owing the host communities. He said that the shutting down of OML-25 facility operated by SPDC was as a result of accumulated manipulation of the people over the years.
“My position is, I don’t want SPDC to come back to Kula because there is nothing of significance that as a Kingdom we can appreciate them for. If the licence of OML-25 has been renewed in favour of SPDC, I urged government to give its operations to indigenous oil companies, preferably, Belema Oil Producing,” he said.
According to King Sara, as a recognised traditional ruler, he attended the meeting convened by the Rivers Government to resolve the issue of OML-25 to give necessary advice.
“I attended the meeting as a recognised traditional ruler in the state to render advice for the purpose of brokering peace. In the meeting, before I signed the Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU), I told them that it would not lead to opening of the OML-25 facility that had been shut down because most of the signatories are not the real stakeholders. I advised the government and SPDC to tarry a bit and visit the area and see the level of underdevelopment,” he added.
OML-25 facility was shut down by women from its host communities in Kula Kingdom.
Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, an elder statesman and former Security Adviser to former Governor Dr Peter Odili and Spokesman for Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF and a prominent stakeholder from Kula kingdom told our correspondent in Kula that it is regrettable that some people he described as opportunists carried away by the allure of quick money fell for the ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics of SPDC and the state government by signing agreement with SPDC just to break the resolve of the host communities.
“They pretended to Shell and the state government that they are the true representatives of the host communities and by signing the agreement the three host communities would vacate the shut down flow station of OML-25. Let them come and reopen the flowstation.The people are saying no to another 20 years of slavery with Shell. We want an indigenous company not the uncaring company like Shell.”