Bayelsa community goes to court to stop Aiteo OML 29 lease
The people of Nembe-Bassambiri in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have asked the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the state capital, to stop the lease of OML 29 to Aiteo pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court.
BusinessDay reliably gathers that the development is the result of plans by the Minister of Petroleum Resources to go ahead with the lease of OML 29 to Aiteo for $82 million without regard to the position of the community in Suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
The plaintiffs are Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B. C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 communities.
The defendants are Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment, The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Aiteo Exploration and Production Limited, Attorney-General of Bayelsa State and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa State Ministry of Lands.
In an 18 paragraph motion on notice, the third plaintiff, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh said the plaintiffs had filed an application for an interlocutory injunction on June 29, 2017 seeking an order restraining Minister of Petroleum Resources from granting any application for the renewal of OML 29 “beyond the subsisting 30-year term that will expire on the 30th day of June, 2019 pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
Edoghotu-Omoh also averred that without allowing the court to decide on the interlocutory injunction, the 5th Defendant went ahead to make payments to the “2nd Defendant through the Department of Petroleum Resources.”
He said the $82 million payment was made in five tranches of $18,455,000.00, $9,277,500.00, $9,277,500.00, $6,866,468.23, $20 million and $18,230,000.00 on 22nd January, 2018, 22nd January 2018, 6th November, 2018, 14th November, 2018, 18th December, 2018 and 22nd January, 2019, respectively.
According to Edoghotu-Omoh, “the conduct of the 5th Defendant/Respondent in ignoring the suit to make payments for the renewal of the OML 29 is capable of generating unprecedented violence in our Kingdom within the OML 29 acreage.”
When the matter came up on Friday, March 22 in Court 2, Federal High Court, Yenagoa, the trial justice, Awogboro Abimbola fixed April 11 for hearing on the motion on notice while urging both parties to make more efforts in ongoing settlement moves.
Abimbola asked both parties to inform the court of any progress made on the settlement efforts at the next adjourned date.
Earlier, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Iniruo Wills told the court that by proceeding to renew the lease, the 2nd and 5th defendants were sending a dangerous and disturbing signal to both the court and the host community.
Wills informed the court that the host community was having a hard time restraining the youth from taking the law into their hands in the wake of the reported payment if $82 million by Aiteo to the Department of Petroleum Resources for the renewal of OML 29.
He described the development as an affront on the court in view of efforts to settle the substantive suit before the court and had therefore filed a motion to set aside all the steps taken to renew the lease while urging the court to proceed on the motion on notice.
Counsel to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, S. Soberekon, however, pleaded for time as the motion was served on her client that very morning.
On August 4, 2015, the Nembe-Bassambiri community through their lawyers, Ntephe, Smith and Wills had asked the court to stop the renewal of OML 29 to Aiteo on several grounds including an attempt to escape their obligations to the host communities.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and the Joint Venture partners went ahead to divest their stake holdings in OML 29 to Aiteo, which the host communities, said in further correspondence, was done “without resolving the untold negative impact of their operations.”
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