· Wike urges oil companies to respect MoU
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The federal government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation yesterday said peaceful resolution of issues surrounding OML 25 would encourage more investors to the Niger Delta.
With the resolution of the OML 25 dispute, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike called on oil companies to respect the memoranda of understanding (MoU) signed with host communities to ensure peaceful and productive operations.
These came up yesterday when the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, GMD of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari and the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Osagie Okunbo paid a courtesy visit to Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
OML 25 has been in conflict for over two years with the host community insisting that SPDC should relinquish its hold on the oil field located at Kula in Akukutoru Local Government, Area, Rivers State, citing its failure to honour MoU with the host community.
At the session with the governor and some state officials, Sylva said the peaceful resolution of the disagreement was a good signal that should encourage investment in the Niger Delta region.
“This is a good signal. We should deepen it. The Niger Delta has struggled for peace. We have lost more than we have gained,” he said.
He said some people were deliberately fuelling problems for business opportunities “to miss Rivers State. This is the right time for all stakeholders to work for more investors in the state.”
Sylva said the successful resolution of the OML 25 conflict was a good 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 it 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 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.”
In his remarks, Wike expressed happiness that the conflict had been finally resolved, saying his administration would continue to develop the right environment for all investors to operate in the state.
He said 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 the 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.
He said: “I do not 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 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.”
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.
He said: ”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 do not do it, how will I get funds to execute key projects.”
He urged the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to prevail on the APC Federal Government to execute projects in Rivers State.
Also at the meeting, Kyari said overall peace has returned to the communities, noting that other aggrieved parties should present their grievances for the resolution of their concerns.
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.
On June 22, Wike kick-started the process for the re-opening of OML 25 when he initiated a meeting between SPDC, Belema Oil, host communities and security services.
On June 27, stakeholder communities of OML 25 in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State and SPDC agreed on the procedures for the re-opening of the oil facility during a meeting facilitated by Wike at the Government House Port Harcourt.