…….. Directs reopening of Shell’s facility within 7 days.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike yet again, on Saturday, waded into the crisis surrounding the OML 25 in Kula, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, directing all parties in the dispute relating to Oil Mining License (OML) 25 to within 7 days resolve all contending issues and reopen the oil facility.
Nigeria is said to have lost over N700Bn since the shutdown of the Kula oil field near the Atlantic Ocean (Oil Mining License 25) in Rivers State more than one year ago, but the host communities have given conditions for resolution of the stand-off.
Recall that leaders of the host communities on Friday, rejected the meeting called by Wike, saying that the invitation seemed to reflect political lines in wards 15, 16, and Abonnema in Akuku-Toru local council area of the state.
But Wike during the meeting on Saturday also directed the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo to convene a meeting of all key stakeholders in the presence of Security Service Commanders , for the host communities to outline their grievances to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and for the company to address such development concerns.
He said he called the meeting because the closure of OML 25 is negatively affecting Federal, State and Local Government funds.
He said: “OML 25 has been shutdown 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”.
Wike said he has no hand in the drilling of oil or the issuance of licenses, but he is committed to peace and security in communities for the development of the state, adding that the issue is on the economic development of the host communities, Rivers State and Nigeria and should not be politicised.
Speaking at the meeting, Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Mr Osagie Okunbor said that 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 10th August, 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 “.
The Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company said that the company has since paid all necessary fees for the renewed OML 25 in October 2018.
“We have made all the payments and 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 said.
In his remarks at the meeting, 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 prefer Belema Oil to take over.
He, however, admitted that SPDC are the licenced operators of OML 25, describing Belema Oil as stakeholders with 3 percent share. According to him, 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.
Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Mr Rowland Sekibo said Belema Oil management created the impression that they bought the OML 25 from Shell Petroleum Development Company, but the company refused to transfer the operational right. He said 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 has already deposited N960million in account for the development of the communities. He said if that fund is deployed, it will transform the host communities.