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Nigeria loses N1.4trn as OML 25 not yet operational

…re-entry delayed as Kula chiefs accuse Shell

Nigeria may have lost N1.4 trillion in the Kula oilfield near the Atlantic Ocean in Rivers State as the controversy-riddled Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 is brewing with fresh disquiet that may lead to another round of crisis.

By May 2019, Shell’s general manager, external relations, while briefing newsmen in Port Harcourt, had put the loss after one year of siege on the platform in Kula at N700 billion. Truce was signed in October same year, and one year four months after; the loss could have more than doubled.

A group in Kula, AkukuToru local council area of Rivers State, has already accused Shell of refusing to implement laid down re-entry programmes and engage with the right community structure.

Some splinter community sources however denied such charges on behalf of Shell, saying the oil major was keen to re-enter the oil field and cannot afford to sabotage its own desired reentry processes.

A group of chiefs who said they were speaking on behalf of Kula Kingdom and the OML-25 communities led by a chief and engineer, Fiala Okoye-davies, told newsmen in Port Harcourt that Shell chose to relate with the wrong people and refused to carry out specifically laid down programmes stated by the stakeholders to make reentry smooth.

The team that addressed the press include K.N Sukubo, Ibinbo Daniel Kiliya, Ibiosiya Isaiah Nath Sukubo (all traditional title holders), and Opunabo Bourdilon Ekine, a lawyer, who called themselves as the ‘stakeholders leadership’.

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By first year of the occupation of the platform by Kula women, Nigeria was said to lose N700 billion in the Kula field. Kula field is said to be host to 200 oil wells of about 150bpd.

OML 25 is located 50-kilometre southwest of Port Harcourt in the onshore Eastern Delta and is part of the NNPC/SHELL Joint Venture (JV). The bloc is located on the coastal mangrove swamp and extends slightly offshore. It is intersected by the Santa Barbara and San Bartolommeo rivers, which are large deltaic tidal channels that enter the Gulf of Guinea.

Shell had attempted to sell the oilfield for $500 million to Crestar but this was stopped by a Federal High Court in Lagos. Belemaoil (with community backing) later tried to acquire it from Shell but this too was stalled until a truce was called in September 2019, where Belemaoil was awarded operational rights while Shell retained ownership.

Now, the Kula chiefs told newsmen that the intention of Shell to deal with the wrong persons became obvious in a circular for meeting soon after the signing of peace agreement to be held at the office of the secretary to the Rivers State government on October 24, 2019. The group said they strongly disassociated the community from such a meeting.

They said: “We are also aware that the trio of the NNPC, SPDC, and BPL (Belemaoil) have had several meetings in a bid to resolve the issues that led to the face-off between SPDC and the host communities. It is interesting that while our position regarding our confidence in the Federal Government to resolve the issues remains sacrosanct, we are minded to warn against various tactics and antics of the SPDC to cause confusion and crisis again in our peaceful Kula Kingdom.”

The chiefs called on the Federal Government and the security agencies to prevail on Shell to desist from whatever alliance it has had with some persons they described as renegades of Kula Kingdom. They appealed to the Federal Government to make Shell conclude the discussion with the government and Belemaoil on behalf of the communities for re-entry into OML 25.

They said the public call became expedient in the alleged wake of several antics being deployed by the Shell in a bid to delay and frustrate the process of re-opening of facility, all in their alleged bid to raise and arm their own counter renegade groups.

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