OML 25 crisis: Ogoni group petitions Buhari, accuses SPDC of bribing Wike

A pressure group, the Conscience of Ogoni People has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the ongoing crisis in OML 25 operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria, SPDC/NNPC JV in Kula Town, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The group in a letter to the president titled: “Save the Soul of Belema, Offoinama, Ngeje, and Oko Family” and made available to theportcitynews said that the issues surrounding OML 25, if not properly handled was capable of igniting another round of chaos and bloodbath in the Kula Kingdom, Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta region.

They also accused Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, of fuelling fresh crisis and bloodbath in OML 25 communities through active support to SPDC to divest its participating interest in OML 25 to a foreign company in violation of the NOGICD Act 2010.

The letter read in part: “Your Excellency, we wish to draw your attention to the activities of the Governor of Rivers State, Chief (Barr) Nyesom Wike, with respect to the face-off between SPDC and OML 25 host communities, which if not urgently and properly handled is capable of sparking off widespread crisis, and avoidable bloodbath not only in Kula Kingdom but also in the entire Niger Delta, thereby jeopardizing the existing peace which your administration has toiled to maintain in the region.

“SPDC has operated in the Kula Kingdom for four decades like in Ogoniland. COOP places on record that the Ogoni agitation was not an agitation about the survival of the Ogoni people alone. It was an agitation for the collective liberation of the Niger Delta region from the shackles of decades of exploitation, misery and environmental degradation suffered in the hands of SPDC.

“It is, therefore, with the benefit of hindsight that COOP seeks Your Excellency’s urgent intervention to save the lives of the Kula people from the death threat issued by the Governor of Rivers State. ”

The group in the letter affirmed that the host communities want SPDC to divest its participating interest in OML25 to Belemaoil Producing Limited, BPL, an indigenous oil and gas company, but SPDC has refused and was bent on divesting to a foreign company.

They accused SPDC of paying Governor Wike $1billion to intimidate the host communities for declaring SPDC persona non grata in Belema, Offoin-Ama, Ngeje communities, and the Oko Family and vowing to non-violently resist every attempt to return SPDC back to their land.

They also alleged that Governor Wike was usurping the powers of the President, by allegedly arrogating to himself the power to impose the operator of OML 25 on the host communities, despite the disagreement between SPDC and the communities currently pending before Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

“SPDC then ran to the Rivers State Government which demanded the sum of $1billion to intimidate and force the host communities to allow SPDC to divest OML 25. Our intelligence gathered that SPDC has paid the sum of $1billion to the Rivers State Government as a means of securing the backing of the State Government in its bid to divest its interest in OML 25 to a foreign company in which the Governor of Rivers State has a substantial interest.

“To ensure that SPDC’s plot to divest OML 25 to the foreign company goes through unhindered, the Governor has within the past few weeks shown desperation to secure the reopening of the oil facilities presently being peacefully occupied by women of the host communities to SPDC without regard to the laws of Nigeria, international best practices, business ethics and against all rules of decency and civilised engagement.

“The Governor of Rivers State has spared no efforts in adopting all crude strategies to cause division within the OML25 communities, including resort to intimidation, bullying, and threats, should they fail to reopen the facilities to SPDC for divestment purposes. The intention is to secure the reopening of the facility to pave way for SPDC to complete the divestment process which has already been set in motion.

“It was this latest attempt to divest its interest in OML 25 to a foreign company without giving the indigenous oil and gas companies the right of first refusal that culminated in the host communities’ demand for the divestment of SPDC’s interest in OML 25 to BPL.

“It will interest Your Excellency to note that SPDC had divested its participating interests in OMLs 18, 24 and 29 within this same communities to foreign companies in a similar fashion, leaving the host communities to live with the 40-year-old accumulated environmental pollution caused by SPDC’s bad oilfield practice.”

Going further, they said they had alerted Amnesty International, the International Court of Justice, friends of Ogoni and the Niger Delta, to hold the Rivers State Government and SPDC responsible should any harm come to the leaders, men, women, and children of OML25 host communities who are peacefully occupying the oil facility over their grievances against SPDC.

“Your Excellency, the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act No. 2 of 2010 recognises the right of indigenous local oil and gas companies to be given a right of first refusal in the award of contracts, oil blocks, oil field licences, oil lifting licences relating to the industry.

“It is, therefore, immoral and smacks of fraud, betrayal and conspiracy for the Governor of Rivers State who should protect the interest and well-being of the host communities which are vital parts of the State over whose affairs he superintends to back SPDC which has operated the block for 40 years without any tangible benefit to the people.

“Furthermore, OML 25 is the subject matter of Suit No: SC/106/2009 instituted by the Attorney-General of Rivers State against the Attorney-General Bayelsa State, currently pending before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Your Excellency, this suit was brought due to the dispute between the two States over the correct boundary between them for the purpose of determining the State entitled to receipts from the oil and gas production in OML 25. Being a matter that is still sub judice, it will amount to contempt of court for the Governor of Rivers State to tamper with the subject-matter of the suit while litigation is pending.

“Against this background, COOP appeals to Your Excellency to use your good offices to swiftly wade into this crisis by directing the Governor of Rivers State to steer clear of OML 25 issues as same is beyond his powers. COOP also appeals to Your Excellency to direct relevant anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria to investigate the receipt and diversion of $1billion meant for OML25 host communities by the Government of Rivers State and bring the perpetrators to book. “