Port Harcourt — The Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa will on June 24, 2019 hear the application of other communities within Oil Mining Lease, OML, 29 seeking to join the suit challenging plan to renew the lease for Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company.
The suit was filed by Nembe-Bassambiri communities in Bayelsa State.
Recall that the people of Nembe-Bassambiri, the host communities of OML 29, had approached the court to restrain the Minister of Petroleum Resources from renewing the lease for OML 29 to Aiteo, pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court.
The lease for OML 29 will expire on June 30, 2019, while the operator of the oil block (Aiteo) had commenced renewal formalities by payment of $82 million to the Federal Government, without regard to the position of the community in suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
However, the matter was stalled last month due to the absence of the presiding judge, Justice Awogboro Abimbola, while more communities in the Nembe Kingdom had indicated interest in joining the suit.
At the resumed hearing last week at the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Iniruo Wills, informed the court that the communities were making progress on the out of court settlement option and would require an adjournment to pave the way for further discussions.
Wills said that the plaintiffs would also use the window of the adjournment to study the applications for joinder in the matter.
“Between March and now, we have made some progress at settling out of court and we will require a short adjournment to be able to update the court on the outcome of ongoing talks amongst the parties.
“Also we have been served with applications by several groups seeking to be joined in the suit, the adjournment will enable us to study them,” Wills said.
Justice Abimbola fixed June 24 for hearing on the application for joinders and update on the settlement.
Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in the oil block, including the Nembe Creek Trunkline, NCTL, for the sum of $1.7 billion, to Aiteo.
The Nembe communities, however, frowned at SPDC’s divestment and transfer of interest to Aiteo (an indigenous company) without factoring in what they described as “social obligations” to the host communities.
They subsequently approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa to halt the renewal of the OML 29 lease, which is due to lapse in June, but, the court urged the parties to resolve the disagreement by dialogue.