Disquiet in Rivers community over oil royalties

Cross section of Finima, Bonny Island30 November 2014, Bonny – The Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny in Rivers State recently dissolved its former leadership and set up a caretaker committee to oversee its affairs

Indications are that the dispute between The Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny in Rivers State and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, of Nigeria has thrown the community into a state of disquiet. Findings have shown that the community’s disagreement with Shell and its (community) former leadership headed by Mr. Horace Oko Jumbo has resulted in the suspension of transactions running into billions of naira and other proceeds of oil royalties in the community’s bank account by the Police.

The community had also at its annual assembly held on September 6, 2014, relieved Horace of his headship of the Jumbo Major House of Grand Bonny, accusing him of maladministration. Thereafter, they set up a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the House. The committee is headed by Prof. Jasper Jumbo, a Management and Development Consultant.

In a petition to the Inspector General of Police dated September 22, 2014, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian, the caretaker committee alleged that Horace failed to account for funds he collected on behalf of the community, which included: N10 million paid by SPDC in 2001 for the Bonny Terminal Integrated Projects; N12.5 million being accumulated sundry dues due to the Jumbo House paid by various companies; N1,150,000 from the Bonny Environmental Consultant Ltd as the payments due to the Jumbo Major House with respect to the 10KC Onshore Tie in Manifold Spill of about April 10 – 16, 2007, in the community; N36,416,419.37 from Shell on March 24, 2014; and N1,231,658,650.94 paid by SHELL being Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal Rent lease.

The community also alleged that its deposed leader allocated and sold a portion of Jumbo Major Family House Land to St. Raphael Catholic Church, Bonny, without the consent and involvement of majority of the Chiefs, Elders and Principal Members of the House for a sum of N17,500,000.00. He was further alleged to have allocated and sold a portion of the Jumbo Major House Family land to one Hon. Ayo Pepple for a sum of N6 million without the consent of the Chiefs, Elders and Principal members of the House.

The community, in setting up a caretaker committee to oversee its affairs, wants to ensure they remain focused in their battle with Shell over the forfeited Bonny Oil Terminal land. Prof. Jasper Jumbo, who heads the committee is one of the pioneers of the Niger Delta struggle and played a leading role in the formation of the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), NDDC and the enhancement of the Oil Terminal Dues. He has been in the forefront of the struggle to get Shell to pay for the use of the forfeited Bonny Oil Terminal land, applying “fair and commercial rates” as enjoined by the Supreme Court, which dismissed SPDC’s appeal against the lower court’s forfeiture order.

Speaking with The Guardian, Jasper asserted that for the dispute to be put behind them, Shell should either quit the Bonny Oil Terminal or get back to the negotiating table with their landlords.

He alleged that SPDC had “earlier tried to steal, via a fraudulent Certificate of Occupancy, which tried to supplant the lien of the landlord but was upturned, via a court forfeiture judgment.”

“I challenge Shell to point in Bonny Kingdom, how many community development assistance projects they had rendered to the Jumbo communities since the past 50 years or more the Jumbos became landlords to them. The most annoying and challenging part of it is that Shell, in spite of the enslaving rate of two pounds ten shillings per acre they got our fathers to sign the Oil Terminal Rent in 1958, got over 1,354 acres of land for the terminal use and is owing us for 21 years,” he noted.

The Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Warisenibo Jesse Jumbo, confirmed to The Guardian that the General Assembly of the Jumbo Major House, on September 6, 2014, dethroned Horace by a vote of 1,650 to 5, “for serial breach of Jumbo Major House Constitution as well as disrespect, arrogance, abuse and disregard to the Jumbo Chief makers and masses.”

Justifying the action, he stated that the 1971 Constitution of the Community stipulates that the community should hold General Meetings at least once a year where the Family Head would give report on the financial position of the House. “Mr. Horace Jumbo failed to do this for several years. Furthermore, he received rents and other royalties on behalf of the community without accounting to us for same. I served his committee for many years as the financial secretary but he ignored all the advice I gave him on probity and accountability of the Family House funds. He was in office from May 2000 until September 6, 2014, when he was removed but he used various tactics including frequent litigations and blackmail to push away many members of the House,” he alleged.

He explained that “when majority of the Family House members observed that they could no longer tolerate the excesses of Mr. Horace Jumbo, they called on the Elders Council to intervene and make him see reason. We invited him three times to meet with us and address the issues our members were raising but he declined all invitation. We now invoked the provision of our constitution and deposed him by an overwhelming majority of votes.”

The Chairman of the Elders Council, Wari Alabo Adolphus William Jumbo, also confirmed the allegations made against their former head. He stated that “the least rent the Jumbos expected for the 21 years Shell defaulted in rent payment was about USD1,166,231.46. When the Elders Council invited him on a number of occasions to address these series of irregularities, he failed to appear before us and we had no alternative but to support the masses to depose him.”

Attempts by The Guardian to reach Horace to react to the allegations proved abortive. Further investigations, however, showed that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, acting on the petitions against Horace, invited both parties to his office recently with a view to ensuring that there is no breakdown of law and order in the community while the search for lasting peace continues.
*Onyedika Agbedo – Guardian

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