Port Harcourt — The Federal High Court, sitting in Yenagoa has declined an application seeking to halt the renewal of OML 29 license for Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Limited, pending the determination of a suit by Nembe communities in Bayelsa State.
Recalled that the people of Nembe-Bassambiri communities through their legal counsel, Ntephe, Smith, and Wills, had asked the Federal High Court in Yenagoa, to stop the Federal Government from renewing OML 29 licence for Aiteo on several grounds, pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court.
The grounds, according to the host community, include an alleged attempt by Aiteo to escape their development and corporate social responsibilities to the host community
The community says the development is a sequel to plans by the Minister of Petroleum Resources to renew the lease of OML 29 oil block to Aiteo for $82million without regard to the position of the community in the suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
The plaintiffs representing OML 29 host communities in the case are, Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B.C. Benwari-Yousuo, and Doibo Evans.
While the defendants are Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd, Attorney-General of Bayelsa State and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa State Ministry of Lands.
In an 18 paragraph motion on notice, the plaintiffs had filed an application for an interlocutory injunction on June 29, 2017 before the court, seeking an order to restrain the Minister of Petroleum Resources from granting any application for the renewal of OML 29 beyond the subsisting 30-year term, which will expire on June 30th, 2019.
But ruling on the matter on Monday, the presiding Judge, Justice Awogboro Abimbola, in response to the application to halt the renewal of OML29 licnese filed by Counsel to the Plaintiffs, decline to grant the application and adjourned the case to September 27th, 2019 to hear applications of parties seeking to join the suit.
Abimbola regretted that she was unable to take the applications for joinder to the case as slated because she has 10 pending judgments to deliver before the court goes on vacation on July 3rd, 2019.
However, about 40 traditional rulers from other communities in Nembe, had earlier filed applications to join in the matter.
Speaking to newsmen after the court session, Lead Counsel to the Plaintiffs, Inoriou Wills noted that the interest of other Nembe communities to join in the suit was an indication that almost all OML29 host communities were unanimous in the quest for welfare for their communities.
Inoriu assured that the communities would remain law-abiding and await the decision of the courts on the pending case and expressed optimism that the ruling will not jeopardise the court process.
“We will expect all the parties to act in good faith and await the outcome of the court, and on the part of the defendants, we expect them to await the decisions of the court, so we don’t expect them to be mischievous and sabotage the court process,” Wills said.
On the earlier advice by Justice Awogboro Abimbola, that both parties should make more efforts on out of court settlement, Wills said “the communities are willing to find an amicable resolution of the issues on the negotiating table but Aiteo did not approach the talks in good faith. Aiteo is merely adopting delay tactics to waste time while their operation goes on.”