26 November 2014, Lagos – The host community to the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 has opposed the intention of the federal government to sell the oil block to interested buyers.
Anglo Dutch oil giant, Shell, has been offering several of its onshore oil assets for sale to interested buyers as part of global divestment strategy.
However, the host community to OML 29, Nembe Bassambiri, Bayelsa State, in a position paper on Tuesday, said it rejected any purported divestment or sale by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC) and Total Nigeria Limited (Total) of their stake holdings in the oil block.
In the paper which was written under the auspices of the Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, the host community said it totally rejects any move to sell the OML 29 without recourse to it.
According to the position paper which was addressed to the Minister of Petroleum Resources and signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, Chief Eferebo Igoma and Chief Ayebasin Edoghotu respectively, the host community said it was wrong to put OML 29 for sale without taking what it called “fair, reasonable and adequate account of the Opu-Nembe Kingdom’s ancestral ownership, legal rights and equitable interests of Opu-Nembe territory.”
Giving an insight into its claims, the host community said: “As you are aware, the minister, the Opu-Nembe Kingdom and its constituent clans and communities own the largest portion of the acreage covered by OML 29 and, in particular, host the following locations and facilities within the OML 29 acreage which are the Tora Manifold, Odema Creek Flow Station, Bassambiri Flow Station, over 80 per cent of the trunk-line from Nembe Creek to Bonny, and sundry oil wells and other facilities in the state.”
According to the Council of Chiefs, the globally “notorious” fact that the operations of SPDC and its predecessors/partners in the said acreage in all these years have caused unremitting damage to the lives, means of livelihood, economies, physical health, social balance, peace, security, cultural heritage and natural environment/ecosystem of the Opu-Nembe Kingdom and its clans, communities, indigenes and residents in perhaps an unquantifiable measure.”
It stated that the operations of these oil majors in OML 29 have posed a grave threat to the continued meaningful existence of the Nembe-Bassambiri Kingdom and its people, and fundamentally altered the prospects and quality of life for the host community.
The host community argued that it was unacceptable that after causing such cumulative degradation of lives and environment as well as profiting maximally from its socio-environmental havoc, “SPDC and its corporate cohorts are now attempting to escape their massive liabilities to the Opu-Nembe Kingdom, and profiteer further in the process by surreptitiously divesting their stake-holdings without factoring in our rights and equities nor resolving the untold negative impact of their operations.
“This constitutes a grievous infringement of our fundamental rights as a people, including our inviolable right to sustainable development, which rights are not only inherent in us but are a also guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution, the African Charter on Human Rights and numerous sub-regional and international instruments and treaties.
“We have in several meetings, especially on April 6 and 29 engaged SPDC on these issues, made our demands for a just resolution and made explicitly clear that the people of Opu-Nembe Kingdom will not allow this fraudulent divestment to go unchallenged and without due sanction, and that no strangers in the guise of new owners will be allowed to operate in our territory without our just demands being met,” it added.
It therefore called on the federal government to suspend the sale of the oil block to any new entity or consortium of entities, and not accorded ministerial consent unless and until the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Maritime Organisation, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Stakeholders Democracy Network, and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative supervise an environmental impact assessment (EIA), social impact assessment (SIA), among others.
It also called on the federal government to accord it a direct equity stake of not less than 5 per cent in the OML 29 acreage, through a special purpose entity, owned by or held in trust for the Opu-Nembe Kingdom.
According to the host community, it wants SPDC to fulfill all its outstanding Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) obligations and legacy community development projects, which it has been dodging for years. A reasonable proportion, not less than 25 per cent of contracts, sub-contracts, employments, professional services, supplies and other benefits incident to OML 29 operations which are reserved by mutual agreement for indigenes and businesses of Opu-Nembe and, by extension, Nembe Se and Bayelsa State origins.