Saturday, September 28, 2019 5:50 pm
…Host Communities in carnival mood
…Youths, elders call the reopening of the facility as liberation from years of oppression
…Governor Wike warns companies to adhere to MOU signed, absent at opening ceremony.
Okafor Ofiebor/reporting from Kula
The controversial Oil Mining Lease, OML-25, flow station, which was shut down and occupied by women and youths of host communities of Belema Offoin-Ama and Ngeje in Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State since August 2017 was officially re-opened on amid celebrations on Saturday.
Present to witness the event were the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, founder and President of Belema Oil Producing limited, Jack-Rich Tein Jr., Mallam Mele Kolo Kyari, the Group Managing Director Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Osagie Okunbor, Country/Managing Director Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, prominent chiefs and elders of the host communities of the flow station.
Before the re-opening of the facility, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources had addressed the aggrieved host communities on negotiations and agreement reached with the President of Belema Oil Producing Limited and other stakeholders in the Joint Venture to address the concerns which led them to shut down the facility exactly two years ago.
Members of the communities were assured that they will never again be taken for granted as their interests will henceforth be paramount in new Memorandum of Understanding, MOU signed with SPDC, NNPC and other Joint Venture Partners which led to the re-opening of the oil production facility.
Our correspondent who was among journalists who witnessed the eventual vacation of the OML-25 in Belema reported that the ceremony was conducted under a very tight security provided by officers and men of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Police, NSCDC, Department of State Services, DSS, in addition several gunboats armed to the teeth.
As part of the ceremony to mark the reopening of the flow station, the Minister commissioned an NNPC/Belema Oil Joint Venture Water project , laid the foundation for Kula Primary/Secondary School, medical centre, women/youth training centre and also breaked the ground for President Muhammadu Buhari 85 km Kula-Degema-Port Harcourt Expressway for the benefits of the community.
The re-opening of the flow station was held in a convivial and carnival like atmosphere in the community with the youths donning T-shirts with inscriptions like “Kula Victory Celebration”, “Thank You President Buhari”,”Celebration of Our Liberation,” etc.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike was absent during the reopening of the flow station in Kula on Saturday.
However, speaking at the Government House, Port Harcourt earlier in the day, during a courtesy visit by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari and the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Osagie Okunbo to his office, Wike declared that his administration will continue to develop the right environment for all investors to operate in the State.
“The oil companies should also respect the Memoranda of Understanding signed with the host communities.
“As the SPDC goes in, whatever they have agreed with the communities should be implemented. If they implement it, they will do their work. If they don’t implement, there will be another round of crisis. And then, they will call Government to come in.
“Ours is to make sure that people carry out their businesses in a very conducive environment. This is the role the Rivers State Government will always play”.
He said that the fundamental focus of the Rivers State Government is for the OML 25 to be operational and productive. He regretted that for over two years, the Oil Facility was shut down and nobody acted.
“I don’t know the role of the security agencies in all of this. We will meet here and agree that the people should vacate the place and let Shell resume work, but the security agencies will do something else “, he said.
He noted that Rivers State is a very peaceful State where oil companies have always been supported to carry out their legitimate activities.
“We took it on ourselves to see that Shell reconciles with the communities”, he said.
Governor Wike noted that during the days of pipeline vandalism, Rivers State witnessed the least cases of vandalism because of the security investment of the State Government.
“When there was this issue of vandalism of oil facilities, Rivers State Government gave the highest support to stop it. In the Niger Delta, Rivers State had the least cases of vandalism.
“I have always supported efforts to protect national assets in the state. Anybody can tell you that. I will continue to create the right environment for investment. If I don’t do it, how will I get funds to execute key projects “, he said.
The Rivers State Governor urged the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to prevail on the APC Federal Government to execute projects in Rivers State.
In his remarks, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Silva expressed happiness that they are in the state to celebrate the return of peace to the OML 25 and the host communities.
“This is a good signal and we should deepen it. The Niger Delta has struggled for peace. We have lost more than we have gained”, he said.
He said that some people are deliberately fueling problems for business opportunities to leave Rivers State. He said that this is the right time for all stakeholders to work for more investors in the state.
Silva said that the successful resolution of the OML 25 conflict is a right starting point to change the narrative in Rivers State.
“Let us use this opportunity to turn a new leaf. Let us use this as a model to replicate in other communities. Oil is a depleting resource. One day, we may wake up and oil companies would have left because it is no longer profitable for them. Oloibori is an example “, he said.
He charged leaders to work to resolve all the emerging challenges to enhance development.
“Let us try and close ranks as a people and ensure that the problem is put to rest finally. We hope this will signal the beginning of a new Chapter “, he said.
In an interview, the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari said that overall peace has returned to the communities. He said other aggrieved parties should present their grievances for the resolution.
He declared that the team visited the Government House, Port Harcourt because OML 25 is situated in Rivers State and there was need to pay courtesy Visit on the Rivers State Governor.