‘Pollution or no pollution, oil production goes on in Ogoni’

16 August, 2011, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Plans are on by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) – a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – to restart production on Shell Petroleum’s 30 oil wells in Ogoniland irrespective of a damning United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report which says it would take 30 years and $1 billion to clean up the pollution in the community.

Indications are that the NPDC had not shelved its plan on the wells abandoned by Shell in the wake of the crisis that greeted the hanging of former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight of his kinsmen in the 1990s by the then military administration.

Indeed, the re-entry plan is reportedly at an advanced stage and the NPDC plans to ensure that all stakeholders are carried along on decisions in this regard.

Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs at the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, confirmed this, saying NPDC would begin production from the oil wells after the necessary arrangements had been put in pace. “The re-entry plan is in progress. We have not shelved the idea because of the UNEP report. The NPDC will take over the operatorship of those oil blocks, but with a different philosophy. The philosophy will be that of unity, oneness and respect for the host community,” Ajuonuma said.

NNPC’s Group Managing Director , Mr. Austen Oniwon, had in January disclosed that NPDC would soon commence oil production from the abandoned wells as part of plans towards reaching NNPC’s mandate to produce 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2015.

To help achieve the mandate, the NPDC had grown its asset base three-folds preparatory to becoming a big player in the upstream sector, while the enabling environment had been provided by the Federal Government, Oniwon said.

News of the planned re-entry had elicited reactions from the Ogoni people who vowed to resist any attempt by NPDC, Shell or any company to restart oil exploration in the area.

Ogoni leader, Mr. Ledum Mitee, said the Federal Government was yet to contact the Ogoni people on NPDC’s plan and that any company that would be allowed to explore oil in Ogoniland must be acceptable by the people of Ogoni.

“I have not been contacted about the plan by the NPDC to begin production, although the government was considering appointing it the new operator. Our position as always is that Shell must be replaced. So it is important that government first discusses whoever will be coming with us. I should expect government to contact us for discussion first and for us to know who is coming, what the company stands for and what they are bringing to the table. We don’t want Shell or something like Shell or a company that will work for Shell,” Mitee said.

The Nigerian government announced the plan to hand over the oil fields abandoned by Shell in Ogoniland to another operator on June 4, 2008. The government decision followed an obvious loss of confidence on the side of both Shell and the Ogoni people in their relationship.

The pronouncement initially pitted Shell against the government, with the oil giant insisting that it would not hands off the blocks. The appointment of NPDC as the new operator, however, received Shell’s endorsement.

UNEP recently indicted Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in a report that showed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta had caused serious environmental contamination and threat to human lives in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

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