- Rejected Shell’s N7bn largesse
- Governor Wike says he’s out to protect locals’ interests
Ogonis appear clearly divided over whether to approve or reject Rivers State government’s recent acquisition of Oil Mineral Lease (OML) 11, a set of 33 oilfields yielding 28,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd), which straddles some communities in Ogoni land, extending to Okrika, Andoni, Oyigbo and Ikwerre.
MOSOP, the umbrella body for all Ogonis last month voiced its strong rejection of Governor NyesomWike’s acquisition of the oilfield, insisting that the governor’s action was done unilaterally, “without the slightest consultation with the Ogoni people or their free, prior and informed consent.” The group also said the purported acquisition was shrouded in “secrecy and inconsistencies” without consultations with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS); and even Shell indicated absolute ignorance about how the acquisition was carried out.
However, EjamahEbubu, one of the six host communities of the oilfield said they approve the state government’s acquisition of the oilfield; alluding that they are a principal host, and were primarily hit by heavy spill 29 years ago which forced them to engage Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in legal battle, rejecting the oil giant’s N7 billion reach-out to placate them against continuing the litigation. The community won Shell all through the courts.
Leaders of the community, located in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers, recently went to Governor Wike, telling him they were with him in the state taking over the oilfield. George Osaro, leader of the EjamahEbubu community leaders, said they were happy with the governor’s intervention in OML 11. “We express our profound gratitude to you for wading into the matter, and ensuring that Rivers State Government purchased the 45 percent interest of SPDC in OML 11. We urge that the intervention of the governor should not be misconstrued, because it is in the overall interest of the host communities,” he said.
Osaro said the governor’s action has liberated them. “We must understand that the governor’s plan is to boost the state economy, create employment and alleviate the suffering of the people, the state and the Niger Delta entirely, as well as the nation, Nigeria,” he said.
He said EjamahEbubu suffered one of the worst oil spills in history, which negatively affected their environment.
Governor Wike had applauded the community for standing firm and fighting through established due process over the oilfield, saying: “But for your fight, who will be talking of Rivers State Government acquiring OML 11. OML 11 is not only for Ogoni, it extends to Okrika, Andoni, Oyigbo and Ikwerre. Any community linked to OML 11 should be eternally grateful to EjamahEbubu community. I know some communities that only N300 million will change them.”
He assured that, “while I remain Governor, one thing I will never do, is sell the interest of our people. The property of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was auctioned, and the Rivers State Government bided and acquired them.”
He agrees that legal battles will ensue the government’s action. “I am ready for the legal battle. The interest of Rivers State must be protected at all times. The Rivers State Government will stand for Rivers people,” he said.
Wike said the acquisition of the 45 percent stake of SPDC at OML 11, Rivers will extend some percentage to the host communities, to give them a sense of belonging. He praised EjamahEbubu community for engaging in a legal battle for 29 years, and refusing to be swayed by financial proposals by SPDC. Your refusal to collect N7 billion led to the auctioning of Shell’s interest at OML 11.