Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, has assured that the ongoing litigation on the lease of OML 29 to Aiteo would not affect oil production saying he was yet to be served the processes.
Kachikwu stated this in Yenagoa, Thursday in a chat with journalists at the second edition of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair organised by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Nembe-Bassambiri communities in Bayelsa State have gone to court to stop the lease as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) was yet to address environmental issues in the operating area before divesting its interest in OML 29.
On March 26, they went to the Federal High Court, Yenagoa seeking to stop the renewal of OML 29 to Aiteo pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court since 2015.
Kachikwu stressed that the disagreements between the operator of the oil block and members of its host communities have no bearing with the licensing process and said the licensing process would go on as scheduled.
In his words: “To start with, I have not been served with the court processes and the case cannot affect oil production. We cannot halt oil production because there is a disagreement with the community.”
The Minister of Petroleum Resources seeks to renew the lease of OML 29 oil block to Aiteo for $82 million but the community wants recourse to the position of the community in Suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
The plaintiffs are Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B.C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 host communities.
The defendants are Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
Others are Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd, Attorney-General of Bayelsa State and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa State Ministry of Lands.
The application sought an order restraining the Minister of Petroleum Resources from granting any application for the renewal of OML 29 “beyond the subsisting 30-year term.
The trial Justice, Awogboro Abimbola, fixed April 11 for hearing on the motion on notice, while urging both parties to make more efforts in ongoing settlement moves and asked them to report progress made to the court on that day.