Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Elder statesmen and professionals from Ogoniland in Rivers State have warned the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) to reconsider its planned resumption of oil exploration activities in the area warning of consequences.
The elders also accused the NPDC of violating industry standards and regulations in its hurry to resume oil production in the area.
The elders, under the aegis of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni (Ogoni Elders Forum), in a letter to the Managing Director of NPDC, expressed concern that the company had ignored its earlier letter in which they raised serious concerns about the advertised OML-11 re-entry plan and called for an opportunity for dialogue.
In the letter jointly signed by the Chairman and the Secretary of the Forum, Senator Bennett Birabi and Dr. Desmond Nbete, respectively, the elders said the planned re-entry activities deliberately failed to recognise that oil activities in OML 11 and Ogoni have a unique history that cannot be wished away by an executive fiat for a restart of oil exploration and production activities without duly engaging the people in a proper and painstaking conversation.
They noted: “Production activities in OML 11 stopped about 26 years ago, and in line with industry practices, such fields like OML 11 ought to be treated as Green Fields, and not Brown Fields. It is not acceptable to summarily commission an Early Production Facility (EPF) to start oil production, without the necessary procedures and approvals for a Green Field development.
“Therefore, we expect that the extant provisions and industry regulations for Green Fields, would triggered and followed appropriately.
“According to DPR guidelines for the design and construction of oil and gas surface production facilities, there are four stages of approval for execution of any project: Conceptual design, pre-commissioning/oil & gas surface facilities operating permit, and decommissioning.
“The conceptual design, which we believe is the current stage, ought to be accompanied by a copy of an approved field development plan (FDP), and a copy of letter of approval of preliminary EIA Report, among other requirements.”
They accused the NPDC of not having an approved FDP and that no EIA has been done for the project.
“The Ogoni environment is already severely stressed and dangerously polluted. This is not a speculative statement, as the UNEP report clearly documented the toxic baseline of Ogoniland. For instance, in the Korokoro Oilfield which you have earmarked First Oil for Q2 2019, the UNEP Report noted that the soil and groundwater has been contaminated by total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH), at levels greater than 14,000 mg/kg (for top soil) and 5,000 – 6,000 mg/kg (for 4-5 meters depth), respectively, all of which exceed the EGASPIN acceptable threshold,” they said.
They also said the UNEP Report made clear recommendations for clean-up and remediation of the area which had not been done.
“Any clean-up activities that is going on in Ogoniland or in Korokoro specifically, is still inchoate. Therefore, your projected timeline in 2019 for First Oil in Korokoro oilfield is unscientific, insensitive and inconsistent with all extant regulations and industry best practices,” they said.
They also noted that the oldest oilfield in OML was commissioned in 1958 while the latest was in 1970, and stated that the prevailing industry regulations had not come into force when they were constructed and used.
“We cannot afford a recommencement of oil exploration and production activities in Ogoniland in 2019, with a 1958 mind-set. The dynamics have since changed; and that includes the guidelines and regulations, which should be obeyed,” they stated.
While insisting on dialogue with the people, the elders stated: “We hereby re-emphasise our earlier call to you, to put a pause to the process, and commence an extensive and transparent dialogue with the Ogoni people and all key stakeholders.”