Stakeholders in Ogoni land have said that while they are not averse to the decision of the Federal Government to ask the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) to take over operations in Oil Mining Lease (OML 11), they are however of the view that the company may have the same problems as Shell if it fails to meet the demands of the people.
They also doubted if the company could meet the deadline given to it by president Muhammadu Buhari in view of the numerous issues that needed to be settled before it can resume production on OML11.
While many of the Ogoni people who spoke to BusinessDay said they welcomed the development, they however stated that the company must meet with credible stakeholders to look at the issues on ground and agree on how they can move forward.
One of the leaders of Ogoni, Ben Birabi told BusinessDay that NPDC would have to discuss with them to find a common ground. “We don’t want the place to be desolate. When NPDC is ready to come we are ready to discuss with them also. We already have documented demands,” he said.
The Ogoni Multi-Stakeholders’ Forum had submitted a seven-point demand to the Federal Government listing conditions to be met before the resumption of oil exploration and production activities in the area.
Gani Topba of Ken Saro-Wiwa Associates who presented the demands on behalf of Ogoni Leaders to the Federal Government said: “We have consistently maintained in all our correspondences with the Federal Government of Nigeria, and in particular, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, that we are not opposed to the resumption of oil and gas operations in OML 11 (Ogoni Fields).”
He said they strongly demand that before the resumption of oil operation in Ogoniland, the suit brought by the Ogoni people to set aside the judgment of the 1995 kangaroo tribunal of the Federal Military Government that led to the gruesome execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, currently before the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, should be first disposed of and their name cleared from the black books.
“The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) and its parent company, the Royal Dutch Shell, remain persona non grata in Ogoniland as declared by our forebears in 1993.
“The SPDC’s application for the renewal of its expiring lease over the OML 11 (Ogoni Fields) should be rejected. The Ogoni Fields (Block) should revert to the Federal Government of Nigeria, effective from 30th June 2019 and should not be renewed for SPDC.
The forum also demanded that the preliminary approvals granted to Robo Michael Nigeria Limited and/or other companies to develop the Ogoni Fields should be revoked/withdrawn.
“The environmental catastrophe created by the over three decades of SPDC’s reckless operations in Ogoniland should be cleaned up as recommended in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report,” it said.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should come to Bori (the traditional headquarters of Ogoniland) to discuss with the Ogoni people and address all legal issues touching on the development of OML 11 (Ogoni Fields),” they further said.
They demanded that all communities in Ogoni should be connected to the national-grid as all the six power plants in Afam are located in Ogoniland. Also, the over 14 Ogoni communities which were destroyed during the military occupation in Ogoniland in the 1990s should be rebuilt and the Ogoni refugees within and outside Nigeria should be rehabilitated.”
An indigene of Ogoni and former external relations manager of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production (SNEPCO), Eddy Wikina, who also toed the line of thought of Ben Birabi, said however he doubted if NPDC can handle the operations of the field because it does possess the capacity and ability to deal with environmental issues that may arise in the cause of it operations.
Other stakeholders said it would not be a bad idea if NPDC decides to partner any of the existing joint venture companies that are more experienced on environment management, adding that this would not be the first time NPDC had attempted to take over the operation of the field but failed.