Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The controversy surrounding the re-opening of facilities of OML 25 in Rivers State continues to rage as the host communities saturday denied agreeing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to return to site.
The communities, Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ingeje in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, also accused officials of the State Government of having been compromised by SPDC into hurriedly wanting to re-open the facility.
In a statement by the Amanyanabo of Opukula, King Bourdillon Ekine and nine others, the communities described as false and misleading statement by the Rivers State Government that the host communities of OML 25 had agreed to sign an MoU with SPDC on July 1 with a view to re-open the flow station.
“It is most unfortunate that a state government that is supposed to concern itself with good governance would be this desperate to champion an illegal course to forcefully re-open an oil platform that was peacefully shutdown based on the legitimate grievances of the Host Communities,” the communities said.
They said by its action, the Rivers State Government was giving the impression that it supports injustice, marginalisation, enslavement and impoverishment of the host communities by the oil multinational company.
They also raised eyebrows on the decision of the state to intervene in the protracted dispute between the communities and Shell which is already been handled by the Presidency and NNPC.
“It is worrisome that Shell and the Rivers State Government who both sent representatives to our meeting with the NNPC in Abuja on the 22nd of August 2017 to resolve the dispute, decided to meet with the wrong people at the Government House in Port-Harcourt to resolve a matter that is already being handled by the federal government.”
They described those who purportedly agreed to sign a MoU with SPDC as strangers, political allies of the governor as well as some renegades from Kula.
On the involvement of the state on the matter, they said, “As a lawyer His Excellency ought to know that State cannot adjudicate on such matter as it is on the Exclusive list of the Nigerian Constitution and not a state affair.
“Let it be also known that the Oko Royal House of Kula is the bona fide owner of Belema Community that gave the acreage to Shell to build the oil facility.
“In the light of the foregoing, we therefore disassociate ourselves from the outcome of the said meeting where the Host Communities purportedly agreed to sign an MOU on 1st of July 2019 with SPDC to re-open the oil facility.”
They called on the Federal Government, Amnesty International and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold the Rivers State Government and SPDC responsible should any harm come on the women and children who are “peacefully occupying the oil facility over legitimate grievances against Shell”.
“We insist that we do not want SPDC any more in our land. We will continue to occupy the oil facility peacefully until our demands are met. Let the Rivers State Government and Shell come with their brute force, we are ready to die for this course.
“We remain resolute in our demands for the divestment of OML 25 by SPDC taking into cognizance the right-of-first-refusal of the Host Communities,” they stated.