Late Ken Saro-Wiwa
By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
The Federal Government may have commenced moves to engage the people of Ogoni in fresh dialogue ahead of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) plan to restart production on the 30 oil wells belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Ogoni.
Shell withdrew from the area in 1993, in the wake of violent protests against its operations, which led to the killing of former President of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his kingsmen by the late General Sani Abacha administration in 1995.
A source at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation told THISDAY Wednesday that getting the oil fields operational was part of the growth plan of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the upstream arm of the NNPC.
He said the NPDC’s target was to attain 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) by 2015, from the about 70,000bpd currently, noting that the peace talks would pave way for smooth operation of the oil fields.
The oil giant had protested the Federal Government’s move in 2008 to assign the operation of the oil fields to a foreign firm, stating categorically that it would not hands off those blocks to any operator, other than its Joint Venture partner.
Government had reasoned that the solution to the crisis would be to allow an operator acceptable to Ogonis to take over exploration activities in the area since there was a total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell.
In response to Shell’s protest, government in 2009, named the NPDC the new operator of the oil blocks, while SPDC would continue to be a shareholder in the Ogoniland operations.
THISDAY gathered that discussions between Shell and the NPDC on the field re-entry were at advanced stages, while efforts to reach relevant stakeholders for reconciliatory talks are ongoing.
THISDAY had exclusively reported that Shell and the NPDC were close to signing an agreement on the operation of the fields, in a renewed bid to commence production on the abandoned oil fields, with a production capacity of approximately 50,000 barrels of oil per day.
Inline with the NPDC’s target to attain 250,000 bpd of crude in 2015, the NNPC, about a fortnight ago in The Hague, Netherland, signed agreement with SPDC to jointly grow NPDC’s out to 250,000 bpd by 2015. The Corporation’s immediate past Group Managing Director (GMD), Mr. Austen Oniwon who made the disclosure was however silent on whether the partnership would involve operations of the
abandoned SPDC’s oil fields in Ogoniland.
But a highly placed source confirmed that “the partnership will involve operation of the Ogoni fields”, adding, “operation of the oil fields is very necessary for NPDC to attain its set target. So for, government is making frantic efforts to engage the people
in peace talks. The issue of cleaning up the area will be a very vital aspect of that discussion and I can assure you that the discussion will be fruitful,” said the said.
A similar peace talk initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2005 had hit brick wall as Ogoni people have since vowed to resist any attempt by Shell or government to resume oil production their area.
MOSOP had been at the forefront of campaign against Shell’s continued production in Ogoniland on allegation that the royal Dutch company failed to pay compensation for damages done to their environment as a result of exploration
activities. The group had vowed to apply what it described as “justifiable stiffer resistance,” against attempts by the NNPC or any oil company to resume oil production in Ogoniland.
It said the resistance package would include the “use of tactics to protect Ogonis, their families and property against physical attack”. These tactics, it added were part of the indigenous Ogoni customary and traditional law, designed to prevent desecration of ancestral lands and sacred sites.