* Demand inspect visit to save over one million bpd of crude
By Codratus Godson
The FG has been silent in the wars over OML 25 and the Kula people would not wait any longer. They want him to send a delegation to come find out the truth about alleged $300m spent in the area by the oil operator.
As the dispute over Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 deteriorates, the aggrieved host communities of Offoin-Ama, Belema and Ngeje have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene when it is not too late. They said their place hosts a sensitive manifold that handles over one million barrels of crude oil per day that may crash of violence erupts.
The affected oil-bearing communities on Friday, July 12, 2019, took newsmen to the various communities to ascertain the true state of affairs including evidence of neglect by successive governments and the oil company that had been there for about 40 years.
Addressing a world press conference held in the various communities, one of the spokesmen, an engineer and chief (Alabo), Fiala Okoye-Davies, urged President Buhari to set up what they called a special ‘Fact Finding Committee’ to visit the areas to see the level of neglect, backwardness and suffering of a people that have hosted oil facilities for over for 40 years.
In the address, Okoye-Davis said this is with a view to setting them free from the oil giant operating the OML 25 facilities. Other demands include revocation of the operatorship license of the oil multinational company and hand it to an indigenous operator that has already proved capable and willing to develop its host communities.
“That the Nigeria Navy in Rivers State, Director of the Department of State Service (DSS), Rivers State Command, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State and other security service men should not be used by the Rivers State Government against our Communities.
“That we call on leaders of thought in the country to prevail on the Rivers State government to allow the peaceful dialogue that has been orchestrated by NAPIMS and the office of the Vice President.”
At Offoin-Ama, a chief, spokesman, and chairman council of chiefs, Ibiosiya Nath-Sukubo, demanded that a major project such as the road from Degema to Kula and its adjoining communities should commence. “Monies recovered from corrupt politicians are more than enough to secure such project by a reputable contractor.”
They also demanded the right of first refusal to be given to the community on the divestment of OML 25; or the operational right be given to Belemaoil. “We are a microcosm of the issues in the Niger Delta in the macrocosm. An injury to one is an injury to all.” This seemed to be a threat that the crisis may escalate to all Ijaw areas of the oil region.
They once again asked to quit Rivers State to join Bayelsa because of what they perceived as injustices and neglect in Rivers State; or they may be forced to seek a separate state.
In Kula, the principal persons who signed the ‘settlement agreement’ with the urging of the Rivers State government with SPDC denied signing it for the purpose of reopening the flow station at Belema town but to allow the oil giant pay in monies owed the communities.
The tour revealed abject poverty close to oil stations especially at Offoin-Ama where a make-shift primary school with wooden walls is the only centre of education. Favour Frank, a mother of two, said teachers posted to the area come once in a while a medical doctor hardly showed up.
A youth, George Nwikpo, told newsmen that they want Belemaoil to take over so that amenities can come as is now the case in other places where the indigenous oil company operates.
The spokesmen said the crisis started in 2014 when the oil giant was believed to want to divest in OML 25 but wanted to hand it to one not loved by the communities. They said agitation by the communities led to a deal to form a Crester/Belema Joint Venture to operate it. They said the oil giant later failed to honour that deal leading to siege of the Belema Flow Station in July 2017 by women of the community.
They said at a negotiation meeting called by the NNPC/FG in Abuja, that the SPDC said they had spent over $300m on the OML 25 host communities and that it was agreed to send an independent team to ascertain the projects under the sum. They claimed that the oil giant has not made the trip to happen.
Shell officials have since denied making such a claim but had said that oil communities have amounts awarded to them for various benefits such as scholarships, projects, etc.
A Kula high chief, Anabs Sara-Igbe, insisted on Shell coming down to prove that it spent the said $300m or whatever amount they want to say they spent. He said this must be done before any new steps are allowed.
On the argument of the Rivers State governor that since the FG has renewed SPDC license they must be allowed to resume, Sara-Igbe argued that SPDC has had license to operate Ogoni oilfields but have not been allowed to step in there. “Let them start from Ogoni first”.
The leader of the women occupying the Belema Flow Station, Diana Agbokor, who is president, Belema Central Women Association, said the FG must allow Belemaoil to take over the operatorship of the oil field.
Nath-Sukubo had told newsmen that the people were peaceful but resolute in stopping any activity at the flow station, saying the settlement agreement would not be enforced because the people were united in their demand for Belemaoil to take over. He said Offoin-Ama housed an oil manifold that serves over one million barrels per day of oil from a huge section of the oil region.
He said: “We host the nerve of the oil economy of Nigeria. If we strike, the Nigerian economy will shut down because all the oil coming from Bayelsa and some other areas pass through our place to Bonny. This is how sensitive this matter is”.