*Planned resumption of oil exploration in Ogoni tears communities, monarchs apart
04 March 2018, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — 25 years after oil exploration activities stopped in Ogoniland following environmental issues that led to an intense crisis by the locals against the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and the Federal Military Government of that time, a fresh crisis may erupt in Ogoni over the planned resumption of oil activities in the area.
This time, the tension and fear that have enveloped the area is believed to be sponsored by two indigenous oil companies bidding for the operatorship license of OML11, Ogoni oil fields, according to the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP.
Recently, the Supreme Council of Ogoni Tradition Rulers, has endorsed an indigenous oil firm, RoboMicheal Limited to commence operation in the Ogoni oilfield, while the Oil-bearing Communities Traditional Rulers in Ogoniland, has come out to endorsed Belemaoil Producing Nigeria Limited for OML11.
Spokesperson of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers and Paramount Ruler of Kpite Community, HRH King Samuel Nnee, said that the decision to endorse the company was sequel to the issuance of licence to RoboMichael by the Federal Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Nnee, explained that the resumption of oil exploration activities in Ogoniland by RoboMicheal will generate wealth, provide employment for Ogoni indigenes, and also open up the area, which has been impoverished by endless years of environmental degradation, to further investment opportunities.
But in a swift reaction, the Oil-bearing Communities Traditional Rulers in Ogoniland have disagreed with the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, over the endorsement of RoboMicheal Limited to operate in Ogoni oil fields.
A resolution reached by the group said that the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers cannot impose RoboMichael on them, since the issuance of an all embracing license for oil exploration and exploitation was totally out of their reach.
The oil-bearing communities which affirmed their support for Belemaoil Producing Limited noted that the unanimous acceptance of BelemaOil in Ogoniland in 2014 was the reason for the issuance of various recommendation letters of the company to various authorities concerned with oil business.
The resolution signed by the President of the oil-bearing communities, Chief Donald Gberesu, further said that the oil-bearing communities would reject any intrusion from any quarters in their domestic affairs.
“We, the paramount rulers of oil-bearing communities in Ogoniland are saying in clear terms that we are the landlords of our communities.
“We hereby resolved that no one has the right to discuss, negotiate with any investor be it public or private without our consent,” Gberesu.
Meanwhile the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, has sounded it loud and clear that the endorsement of any oil firm to come into Ogoniland does not in any way represent the wishes of the people, maintaining that it rejects and will resist such moves.
MOSOP President, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara reiterated its earlier position that it has not and will not endorse any oil company be it RoboMichael, BelemaOil, NPDC, NNPC, Shell or any other for the purpose of resuming oil production in Ogoniland, until the issues raised by the Ogoni people are addressed through dialogue.
Pyagbara called on President Muhammadu Buhari to avert a possible breakdown of the peace in Ogoniland by putting a check to the activities of oil firms scrambling to gain access to resume oil exploration activities in Ogoni.
But for the Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates, the current leadership of MOSOP, led by Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, has failed the people of Ogoni by not protecting the legacies of late environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa.
National Coordinator of KSWA, Chief Gani Topba, although has not openly declare his support for any oil company, has continued to alleged that RoboMichael Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC are proxies of SPDC, and therefore should steer clear of Ogoniland in the interest of peace.
Topba, who according to MOSOP is pushing the agenda of Belemaoil, have consistently accused Shell of applying to renew its lease over OML 11, which according to him would expire in 2019, and urged President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources, to reject such application.
“SPDC’s subsisting lease over OML 11 should be revoked immediately to pave the way for discussions with Ogoni elders and leaders of thought on the demands of the Ogoni people as articulated in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, before the resumption of oil production.
“Also, the unilateral decision of the NNPC to grant approval and operatorship licence to RoboMichael Nigeria Limited to resume oil production in OML 11 on behalf of SPDC without the free, prior and informed consent of the Ogoni people as guaranteed by international law, is brazen and undemocratic as it is capable of igniting fresh crisis in the area,” Topba said at the 2018 Ogoni General Assembly.
It should be noted that the Shell Petroleum Development company Nigeria Limited, SPDC, left Ogoni in 1993 and since then, the Dutch multinational has maintained that it has no plans to return to the area for oil exploration activities.