Port Harcourt — Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Saturday directed all parties in the dispute relating to the shutdown of Belema flow station and gas plant in OML 25, operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC/NNPC Joint Venture, to resolve all contending issues and reopen the oil facility within seven days.
Governor Wike also directed the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, to convene a meeting of all key stakeholders in the presence of Security Chiefs, for the host communities to outline their grievances to SPDC and, for the company to address their concerns.
Governor Wike gave the directive at a meeting with the management of SPDC, Belemaoil Producing Limited, OML 25 host community leaders, traditional rulers, youth leaders and security chiefs at the Government House Port Harcourt.
Addressing the meeting, Governor Wike said he called the meeting because the continuous closure of OML 25 was negatively affecting the Federal, State and Local Government revenues.
He added that it was totally wrong for some section of the OML 25 host communities to ask him not to intervene on the matter because it was already before the Federal Government.
“OML25 has been shut down for one reason or the other. Some persons in the community are hurling insults at me. No matter the insult, nothing will make me not to perform my duty to the area.
“The Federal Government, the State Government, and the Local Government are losing funds with the continued closure of the OML 25. If Shell is behaving wrongly, tell them and if Belemaoil is behaving wrongly, tell them.
“It is wrong for anyone to say that the Federal Government is handling the matter. When conflicts of this nature affect the communities, it is for the State and Local Government Area to resolve them.”
Governor Wike said he had no hands in the drilling of oil or the issuance of oil licenses, but he was committed to peace and security in communities for the development of the state, warning that the issue on the economic development of the host communities, Rivers State and Nigeria should not be politicized.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of SPDC, Mr. Osagie Okunbor, commended the intervention of the Rivers State Governor on the matter, while informing the stakeholders that the operating license of OML 25 has renewed by the Federal Government for another 20 years.
“We operated in a cordial environment until 10th August 2017 when some community people entered the facility. The information that was given to us was that they were unhappy over issues of social amenities and employment. We listened and we were keen to address these issues.
“But at some point, another element entered the equation, which was that we should relinquish and hand over to Belemaoil, that is from the community.
Okunbor noted that Shell Petroleum Development Company was prepared to address the social amenities, empowerment and other issues raised by the host communities.
“We have made all the payments and it is our facility. We are keen to return to the facility and operate for the benefit of all. I have made myself available to talk to many of the stakeholders from the communities to try and understand what the issues are and how we will go about resolving them,” the SPDC boss said.
For his part, the Acting Managing Director of Belemaoil Producing Limited, Mr. Mufa Welch, denied the involvement of the company in the closure of OML 25 but claimed that the host communities prefer Belemaoil to take over the operator of the oil block.
Welch, however, admitted that SPDC was the licensed operators of OML 25, describing Belemaoil as stakeholders with three percent shares.
According to him, “The people prefer Belemaoil because of the way we operate OML55 which we acquired from Chevron. With the way we operate, the communities are bent towards us. The communities love the way we operate and the way we do things. OML25 has been closed for almost two years. We have nothing in the shutdown of the OML25. But the communities are bent towards us, the way we do things.”
Earlier, the Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Rowland Sekibo, accused the management of Belemaoil of creating the wrong impression that they (Belemaoil) bought OML25 from Shell, but the company refused to transfer the operational rights.
Sekibo said that at a meeting with stakeholders with NNPC in Abuja, it was discovered that the license of OML 25 was still under the ownership of Shell.
He said though the owner of Belemaoil was an indigene of the area, it was illegal to shut down the oil production facility in order to arm-twist the system to sell it to Belemaoil, warning that such action would negatively affect other Rivers businessmen with oil operating licenses in other states.
The Akuku-Toru Local Government boss informed the governor that in the Global Memorandum Of Understanding with SPDC, Shell has already deposited N960million in the account for the development of the communities, adding that the fund if deployed, it will transform the host communities.
Also speaking, the Amanyanabo of Opu-Kula, Hope Opusingi, said that the people of the Area were initially misled into shutting down OML 25.
He said that after some stakeholders discovered that in reality the operating license of SPDC had been renewed, they resolved to tow the path of peaceful economic development.