BY Simeon Nwakaudu

One of the greatest advantages of the truth is that it withstands all manner of pressure, propaganda and falsehood.  When on June 22, 2019 Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took the courageous step to re-open the Oil Mining License (OML) 25, an interested party engaged commercial mischief makers to heap insults on the Rivers State Governor.

Radio programmes were sponsored, planned tours paid for and television shows anchored for the purpose of casting aspersions on the Rivers State Governor.  His patriotic intervention to resolve the contrived seizure of that facility was lampooned by the interested party and his cohorts.

Today (September 17, 2019), I watched on AIT News Hour the culmination of the entire episode.  It boiled down to the resolution of the meeting that Governor Wike held with all the stakeholders of OML 25 at the Government House Port Harcourt on June 22, 2019. Apart from the fact that Timipre Silva Superintended over this particular meeting, every other detail remains as Governor Wike resolved.

But quite importantly, the Abuja meeting aimed at placating the interested party excluded the Stakeholder Communities.  They were visibly absent. It was strictly a business discussion between Shell and Belema Oil.  A discussion of who gets what.  In the coming days, Public Relations experts would be engaged to offer explanations.  A few crumbs would be released to attack dogs to justify the exclusion of the stakeholder communities in the negotiations and false justifications would be thrown up.

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But on June 22, 2019, Governor  Wike  involved  all the stakeholder communities,  sampled  their opinion  and drew out the working document that has succeeded .  This was a selfless service to Rivers people and the state.  It was also a defining economic decision that has benefited everyone: Shell,  Belema Oil, the host communities,  Rivers State and Nigeria. Otherwise,  that facility would have remained shut with the interested party lying every minute about the planned revocation of Shell operational licence of OML 25.

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Governor Wike created a negotiating table.  He would have shied away,  but he stood his ground  to defend the rights of all concerned  within the law. That is that mark of true leadership.  He took the bullets and ensured a solution was reached.

Following the resolution of the matter, Shell is still the owner of the operating license as the meeting convened  by Governor Wike brought to the fore on June 22, 2019.

The Abuja meeting did not change this fact. It only provided a soft landing and exit for those holding the nation’s economy hostage.

After the  Abuja meeting,  Chairman of Belema Oil, Tein Jackrich said, “They (Shell) remain the operator (of OML 25) we provide the operation maintenance  contract.”

Listen to what his representative said at the crucial historic meeting convened by Governor Wike at the Government House Port Harcourt.

In his remarks at the meeting,  Acting Managing Director of Belema Oil, Mr Mufa Welch denied the involvement  of the company in the closure of OML 25, but stated that the host communities  prefer Belema Oil to take over.

He, however,  admitted  that SPDC are the licenced operators of OML 25, describing Belema Oil  as stakeholders with 3 percent share.

In Abuja,  the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company repeated what he told Governor Wike during  the June 22, 2019 meeting.

Speaking at the meeting,  Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company,  SPDC, Mr Osagie Okunbor said that the company  operates the OML 25, with the operating license renewed by the Federal Government for another 20 years.

He said: “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”.

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On Tuesday,  September 17, 2019, .the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, explained, “At the back of it, you are aware that there is a complete stoppage of petroleum operations around the OML 25 and adjoining blocks. What this means is shut down of production of over 35,000 barrel of oil every day in the last two years and that is an enormous economic loss for all stakeholders, Nigeria and the communities.

“This is why we engaged all stakeholders and we are happy to announce today that the closure has been obtained.”

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This was fundamentally the reason behind Governor Wike’s engagement with all the stakeholders.  It was for the benefit of all.  Nobody was left out.

An important punchline in the report by the News Agency of Nigeria:  “The minister commended the NNPC, Shell and the Belema Oil for agreeing to resolve the dispute”.

This entire saga was never about the Stakeholder Communities until Governor Wike delved into the matter. It was strictly an economic struggle with the women and elderly used as pawns to occupy that facility.

Governor Wike got involved and created a platform for the Stakeholder Communities to be on a negotiating table with SPDC to eke out a profitable deal. For the Rivers State Governor,  it is always about the people.

Governor Wike initiated the process  of resolution,  community development and the maximum execution of community projects by Shell Petroleum Development Company for the Stakeholder Communities.

The process initiated  by the Governor Wike was managed by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo.  He is an indigene  of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.  All stakeholders  of the facility participated in the process to ensure  that the concerns of the Stakeholder Communities are duly addressed.

Stakeholder Communities of Oil Mining  License (OML) 25 and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the re-opening  of the closed flow station and the payment  of outstanding  funds owed Stakeholder Communities under the extant Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU). The M.O.U. signed between Shell and the Stakeholder Communities  also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account , the sum of N1.36billion .

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The Settlement Agreement was signed on behalf of the communities by Traditional Rulers,  Youth Presidents, Chairmen of Community Development Committees and Community Leaders.  Those who signed the agreement include : the  Stakeholder Communities of Kula,  Belema,  Offoin-Ama,  Ibie-Ama,  Boro and Opu-Kula. 

It is gratifying to note  that the leadership of Shell Petroleum Development Company further committed to implementing  the terms of GMOU.  Though the process of re-opening  OML 25 lasted a little longer than necessary,  the entire episode has exposed  to the world the commitment of Governor Wike to the welfare and development of communities of Rivers State.  It has also emphasised the dedication of Governor Wike to the growth of the nation’s economy.

This is one of the reasons Rivers people elected and re-elected Governor Wike.  His capacity to stand strong on their behalf in the face of blackmail,  propaganda and personal attacks is legendary.  This sad onslaught got to a point that his former Information Commissioner  was hired to circulate malicious falsehood on the issue of OML  25. Viewpoint on Rhythm FM became  the headquarters of those who struggled  to twist facts and insult the Rivers State Governor because he stood with the voiceless people  and insisted  that they must get the best out of their natural resources.

For the avoidance of doubt, the agreement of the two groups  in Abuja simply confirmed the agreement signed by the Stakeholder Communities of OML 25 with Shell Petroleum Development Company at the Government House Port Harcourt.  In other words,  Shell Petroleum Development Company has the operational licence for OML 25. Belema Oil will continue  to play the role it has always played regarding  that oil facility.  It  is a Stakeholder.  The Stakeholder Communities will enjoy the fruits of the expanded Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) signed as an initiative of Governor Wike.  The facility will be re-opened and everyone is happy.

The truth always wins. It may suffer knocks,  but it surely wins. The victory  of truth is always to the benefit of the vast majority.  In Governor Wike,  Rivers people has a courageous leader who stakes everything to empower his people.

Nwakaudu wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.


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