Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike yesterday directed all parties in the dispute relating to Oil Mining License (OML) 25 to resolve all contending issues and reopen the oil facility within seven days
Wike also directed the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo to convene a meeting of all stakeholders in the presence of security chiefs for the host communities to outline their grievances to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and for the company to address such development concerns.
He spoke at a meeting with the management of the SPDC, Belemaoil Producing Limited, host community leaders and security service commanders at the Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday.
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 also attended the meeting.
Addressing the meeting, Wike said he called the meeting because the closure of OML 25 “is negatively affecting Federal, State and Local Government funds.”
He observed that OML 25 “has been shut down 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,” the governor explained.
Wike said he had no hand in the drilling of oil or the issuance of licenses, but committed to peace and security in communities for the development of the state.
The governor warned that the issue “is bordering on the economic development of the host communities, Rivers State and Nigeria and should not be politicised.”
Also at the meeting, the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr Osagie Okunbor said 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 August 10, 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.
He said that the company “has since paid all necessary fees for the renewed OML 25 in October 2018. We have made all the payments. 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 welcomed Wike’s intervention, noting that the company was prepared to address the social amenities, empowerment and other issues raised by the host communities.
In his remarks at the meeting, the 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 preferred Belema Oil to take over.
He, however, admitted that SPDC was the licenced operators of OML 25, describing Belema Oil “as stakeholders with three per cent share. 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.
The Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Rowland Sekibo, said the management of Belemaoil created the impression that they bought the OML 25 from Shell Petroleum Development Company.
However, the council boss said the company refused to transfer the operational right, noting 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.
He informed that in the global memorandum of understanding, Shell had already deposited N960million in account for the development of the communities.
He said if that fund “is deployed, it will transform the host communities.”