29 June 2015, Yenagoa – Elders and chiefs of Nembe Kingdom in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have sent a protest letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged secret sale of oil and gas reserves in the area by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, without the involvement of the indigenes.
However, efforts to get SPDC’s comment on the issue at press time proved abortive as the telephone of its spokesman, Mr. Joseph Obari, was switched off. According to the elders, Nembe kingdom is one of the biggest on-shore oil producing communities in the Niger Delta with the oil mining lease (OML) 29 producing over 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Nembe communities, in a petition to President Buhari, entitled “A demand for our community’s participation and our right to equity shares in Shell’s sale of its assets”, claimed that the action of the company to exclude them was an insult and a provocative stance that could disrupt oil exploration activities in the area.
The petition, signed by the chairman of Nembe Oil and Gas Committee, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio and the Secretary, Chief Austin Martins-Gboro, read: “We just woke up one morning and started reading in the newspapers and the electronic media that our oil fields have been sold by Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, SPDC, and acquired by an unknown company, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.
‘’The sale involves the acquisition of SPDC’s 30 % stake in our oil mining lease (OML) 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk line, NCTL, under the latest Shell divestment policy of empowering indigenous oil companies as enunciated in the lurch to suffer for all the ‘sins’ committed by Shell in our environment. This smacks of impunity as it is not done in line with global best practices.
“The problem of this clandestine sale without prior consent and or consultation of the custodians of the oil fields to Aiteo to boost indigenous companies in the upstream sub-sector of the oil and gas industry, has produced a lacuna that the sale had not taken care of.
‘’During the time of Shell’s operations in the Nembe environment over the years, our land had been totally devastated and degraded which was occasioned by incessant oil spills that called for clean-ups and remediation of the environment.
“Shell was responsible for these anomalies as a result of its negligent behaviour. That is why it beats our imaginations that nothing was made known to us, as a community that had shouldered these hazards of oil exploration and exploitation.
“Apart from the devastated and degraded environment that had been unwittingly left behind to our detriment, there were also the issues of mutual agreements entered into between the company and the community.”