By Codratus Godson
Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has reiterated his stand on the controversial Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 called the Kula oil field, saying the license belongs to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The governor’s reaction came in the statement issued on Monday, August 12, 2019, from his only media aide at the moment, Simeon Nwakaudu, senior special adviser on electronic media.
The aide’s clarification came in the heat of renewed media attacks on the governor for allegedly supporting Shell against an indigenous contractor seeking to acquire same oil field.
The government clarification pointed out that it is the APC-controlled FG that renewed Shell’s license, not the PDP-controlled Rivers State government. The statement said Wike was only making sure that whoever got the license goes to location to drill oil and generate revenue for the country, and nothing more.
Nwakaudu took a swipe on the former commissioner of information, Austin Tam-George who has been in the media lambasting Gov Wike for supporting Shell. Nwakaudu said: “The facts on OML 25 are very clear. The facility was shutdown in 2017 by some persons who were allegedly primed by an interest group. The Rivers State Governor made no attempt to intervene since this interest group claimed that an indigenous operator had also applied for the operating license. In October 2018, the APC Federal Government through the NNPC renewed the Operating License of SPDC. This operating license will remain valid for the next 20 years.
“The position of the Rivers State Governor is simple. Due process of the law must be observed at all times. The company with the operating license for OML 25 should be allowed to carry out its legitimate business. He stated that if the indigenous firm is able to obtain the operating license from the APC Federal Government, then the State Government will fully back it.
“But at present, the operating license of the SPDC has been renewed by the APC Federal Government. This renewal was not facilitated by the Rivers State Governor. All the Rivers State Governor has done is to continue to promote a conducive investment environment in Rivers State. Governor Wike has continued to create the right environment for international and local investors to operate. The Governor will never lay credence to illegal acquisition of businesses under any guise. There are laid down procedures for operating any oil facility. Tam-George should advise those who hired him to follow the approved procedures.
“Is Tam-George saying that the Rivers State Government should support the forceful take over of businesses in the state? Of course, to Tam-George once the price is right, illegality should be the norm.
“Tam-George forgot very conveniently that last year, he vehemently defended Shell and called out Gov Wike over the planned relocation of the Supply Base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State to Lagos.
“At that time, he was not aware of several efforts that the Governor made to stop that relocation. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike on that issue met with the top management of Shell Petroleum, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and other relevant stakeholders over planned relocation of the Supply Base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State to Lagos.
To Governor Wike, the interest of Rivers State is paramount at all times. He takes actions to enhance the overall interest of the state.
The media aide went on to explain that the chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Rowland Sekibo, at the meeting convened by Governor Wike, said that Belema Oil management created the impression that they bought the OML 25 from Shell, but that the company refused to transfer the operational right. He said that a meeting with stakeholders at NNPC Abuja, it was discovered that the license of OML 25 was still under the ownership of Shell.
He said though the owner of Belema Oil is from the area, it was illegal to shutdown the oil production facility in order to arm-twist the system to sell it to Belemaoil. He said such action would negatively affect other Rivers businessmen with oil operating licenses in other states.
He went on: “The process initiated by the Govr Wike was managed by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government who is an indigene of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area. All stakeholders of the facility participated in the process to ensure that the concerns of the Stakeholder Communities are duly addressed.
“Stakeholder Communities of OML 25 and SPDC have signed an MOU for the re-opening of the closed flow station and the payment of outstanding funds owed Stakeholder Communities under the extant Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU). The M.O.U. signed between Shell and the Stakeholder Communities also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account, the sum of N1.36Bn.
The Settlement Agreement was signed on behalf of the communities by Traditional Rulers, Youth Presidents, Chairmen of Community Development Committees and Community Leaders. Those who signed the agreement include : the Stakeholder Communities of Kula, Belema, Offoin-Ama, Ibie-Ama, Boro and Opu-Kula.
Shell and the other stakeholders have played their respective roles in the agreement reached at the settlement meetings facilitated by the Rivers State Governor.
Aside the OML 25, Governor Wike has intervened in several other challenging issues between host communities and business concerns. Most of these issues have been resolved amicably. The Governor intervened in the dispute between Mgbuesilaru Community of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and Shell Petroleum Development Company . This matter has been finally resolved and SPDC has paid Mgbuesilaru Community their outstanding debt.”
He went on to state that on 13th June, 2019, Gov Wike met with Chairmen of Cluster Developnent Boards of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema Local Government Areas, Oil Companies and Security Agencies at the Government House Port Harcourt. “At that meeting, Gov Wike directed the immediate revival of the State Steering Committee on Cluster Development Boards.”
He said: “I will not support any company not to carry out their corporate social responsibilities to their host communities. However, communities must not take laws into their hands. They must not stop production by the operating companies. Such actions will negatively affect the finances of the Federal Government, the state and the local government areas”.
He said in cases where companies failed to act within the expectations of the communities, the State Government would mediate through the Steering Committee on Cluster Development Boards. “That Steering Committee on Cluster Development Boards has been inaugurated by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government.
The meeting of June 13, 2019 led to the release of the Oil Rig of Eroton Oil and Gas Limited by the host communities. Both parties resolved their differences at the meeting.
Issues of development and social services for the State are being handled by the Wike Administration. It is an ongoing process. Kula, like all other communities, have been accommodated by the Administration.”
Wike’s aide condemned alleged calls by the former commissioner for violence and self in the settlement of disputes involving companies operating in their localities. “Governor Wike has adopted the most civilised method including following due process. He has involved representatives of stakeholder communities, security agencies and the Akuku-Toru political class to arrive at the solution. This is for the overall benefit of the Kula community.”
To Tam-George that is accusing Gov Wike of collusion with Shell, he asked; “Is he saying that the APC-controlled FG colluded with Shell in renewing their operating license? This is because it wasn’t Govr Wike that renewed the license. Tam-George lacks the courage to blame the FG that aided Shell ahead of the indigenous firm.
“In one breadth, Tam-George would rant that Gov Wike should intervene to stop Shell from living Onne and in yet another he shouts that Gov Wike should not intervene in Kula. Our country is suffering today because of individuals who dance to every tune, depending on the price. They never look at the bigger picture.
In engaging the process, Gov Wike took into consideration, the needs and future of the Stakeholder Communities of OML 25. He is Governor to all Rivers people and he is exercising his mandate for the good of all, Kula inclusive.”
The world is however waiting for the actualization of the seven day ultimatum given by the Rivers State government for the women occupying the platform to vacate and for SPDC to resume operations.