…As RSG Roars, Gives Marching Orders
As the Rivers State Government intensifies efforts to seek solutions to the lingering rift between Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and its host communities in the OML-25 oil field, following the continued shutdown of the facility located in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, all parties in the matter have been reassured that the facility will be re-opened with the interest of host communities protected by the operating company, SPDC.
The government through its representative and Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo at a meeting with a section of the host communities, and SPDC at the Government House, Port Harcourt, said Governor Nyesom Wike remains committed to the protection of host communities' interest.
The SSG said: "The flow station of that facility must be opened. For that to happen, we think that the interest of the host communities must be protected, so that in future we don't have a repeat of what happened.
"That is why it is in the best interest of everybody concerned to state very genuine concerns of what Shell has to do ".
He said that the Rivers State Government is discharging its responsibility of ensuring the peaceful resolution of the issues, adding: “At the initial stage, we didn't want to get involved because we felt that the Shell license was almost terminating. But at this stage, it is clear to everybody that the Federal Government has renewed the license of Shell for another 20 years. What it means is that for the next 20 years, Shell must be there.
"As a law abiding Government, what we will do is to see that Shell does not trample upon the rights of our people. It presupposes that Shell will listen to our people on what they ought to do”.
Danagogo urged the communities to do what is right, assuring that the State Government will on that premise prevail on Shell Petroleum Development Company to release the Global Memorandum of Understanding funds.
General Manager, External Relations of SPDC, Mr. Igo Weli said that the SPDC is ready to dialogue with the communities and resolve the issues raised.
He disclosed that the existing GMOU has expired, but added that company was working with the communities, with the hope that another GMOU will be worked out for the development of the communities.
But in a swift reaction, another group which also lays claim as the host communities of the OML-25 comprising Belema, Offoinama and Ngeje Communities, come out to deny that it did not reach any agreement with the Dutch oil rich company to sign any Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) with a view to reopen the Belema Flow Station.
In a joint statement issued on Friday, the communities accused Shell of perpetrating injustice, marginalization, enslavement and impoverishment to its host communities even as it also frowned at what it perceived as complacency on the part of the Rivers State government in calling the multinational company to order.
“SPDC is part of the major culprit in the OML-25 crisis, what it does is to divide communities, to make sure that communities don't work together, for them to have their way but it boomerangs at the end of the day.
“Shell does not want to obey or implement the Memorandum of Understanding they have with communities, Shell has that history of not implementing Memorandum of Understanding, even when they want to, they will go and find project that does not worth anything, it's unfortunate, so we seek your cooperation that Shell does what it is supposed to do''.
It will be recalled that earlier at a press conference at the Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt recently, these section of the OML-25 host communities said a caveat had been placed against the Dutch oil giant, stating emphatically that they no longer want Shell in their land.
Spokesperson of the Communities, Engr. Fiala Okoye-Davies said the decision became inevitable following what turned out to be 40 years of 'neglect and enslavement' suffered in the hands of the oil operators.
Okoye-Davies explained that his people had assembled at the Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential to honour an invitation for a meeting with the Rivers State government, to seek ways of resolving the Belema Flow Station impasse as directed by Governor Nyesom Wike earlier on Friday.
He said while they were still waiting for the arrival of all the parties to the meeting, a top official of government came in and announced change of the meeting venue from Hotel Presidential to the Rivers State Government House.
Infuriated by this development, the visibly angry community members said the change of venue was unacceptable.
“We reject the change of meeting venue and place a very stern demand on the Rivers State government that subsequent meetings concerning the OML-25 issues be scheduled at Belema Community after a joint inspection of the host communities by the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC/NAPIMS, SPDC, PANDEF, Rivers State Government and the host communities”, he said.
As the paramount rulers of each of the three communities took turn to speak, their message was the same and could not hide their resentment against SPDC, accusing the oil company of not employing 'a single person after 40 years'.
“It is our view that this type of meeting is on the exclusive list of the federal government and NNPC is currently handling it. And since NNPC is going through transition, it is important for the Rivers State government to wait for a new management of NNPC to come in and steer the meeting.
“Shell was the one who aborted all the peace process initiated by NNPC because they refused to take NNPC peace-based advice to structure a sustainable understanding with the host communities”, Okoye-Davies posited.
The angry community members thereafter left the meeting venue to the parking lot to start a peaceful protest, displaying placards bearing various inscriptions.
Chanting a song 'Shell leave our land', the protesters, who also had in their midst, the President of the National Youths Council of Nigeria, Amb. Sukubo Sara-Igbe, lamented the destruction of their aquatic livelihoods through oil pollution.
Among many claims made by the protesters was that a General Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) framework that was put in place in 2005 to be effective from 1st January 2006, had remained unimplemented 13 years after it was signed.