Analysts and concerned citizens say there is need to avert the imminent war if only both parties apply break and do the needful.
Abba Kyari’s leaked memo came at a time the Buhari government said it was not in a hurry to renew oil well licenses and that if nothing at all, it has to be done purely on merit.
But the President’s chief of staff did not leave anybody in doubt about the level of power he wields in government. This he did by allegedly “ordering” Shell to abdicate the responsibility of OML 11 oil field to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for operations.
OML 11 is located in Ogoniland, Rivers State, a very controversial settlement that has been impoverished by years of concentrated environmental pollution by the oil majors with little or no remedy. Thousands have lost their lives and property while those alive today are dying by installment.
The memo with reference number SH/COS/24/A/8540 was said to have been addressed to the NNPC group managing director, Maikanti Baru on March 1. The import of that letter was that NNPC and its subsidiary, Nigerian Development Petroleum Company, NPDC, should “ensure smooth re-entry given the delicate situation in Ogoniland”.
It is not clear whether the decision of the Chief of Staff to change the operatorship of the OML 11 was ever discussed at the federal executive council, FEC, where key stakeholders are expected to make their contributions. Secondly, should such a sensitive memo emanate from the office of the Chief of Staff or that of the Minister of Petroleum?
President Buhari doubles as the substantive minister of the ministry of petroleum while Ibe Kachikwu is the junior minister. So, who then is more qualified to suggest the change of operatorship of an oil field that is like a proverbial bird located in a controversial environment? There are many questions on the lips of many concerned Nigerians.
A Peep At OBJ’S Attempt
Way back in 2005, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo displayed all the tricks off his sleeves to ensure that Shell reentered Ogoni for oil operations. He failed. Riding on the roughshod of the peace and reconciliation presidential committee on Shell and Ogoni, which he formed in 2005, Obasanjo thought he could lead the Royal Dutch oil giant to commence operations in Ogoni. It was a stalemate.
Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, a revered Catholic Priest who was the chairman of the Presidential Committee did all within his ability but could not record any tangible breakthrough. Under Obasanjo, the Ken Saro Wiwa peace park in Bori, capital of Khana local government area was built as a bait to draw the Ogonis acceptance. He encountered brick walls.
At some point in 2006, in his last official visit to Ogoni, a physically furious Obasanjo vented his spleen on Ledum Mitee, then President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP. To the former President, Mitee was the clog in the wheel of reconciliation and possible oil drilling in the area.
“Without peace, we do not give development a chance. I sincerely want to put this conflict in Ogoni behind us so that we can have the environment necessary for development,” Obasanjo said almost pitiably.
Mitee’s position was that “it is critical that people do not misinterpret a willingness to talk as anything more than a first step. We have consistently said that we are willing to talk and we do want to hear what the federal government and Shell have to say about redressing the damage which has been done to Ogoniland and our people”.
But the feeling most of the indigenes have now is that under the Buhari administration, everything concerning Ogoni is either shrouded in top secrecy or in outright deceit. Apart from the multi-billion naira Bodo/Bonny road project which intends to link the hinterland with the rest of Nigeria, there is hardly any significant government presence in that part of the country.
Agreed, the N120billion 47kilometers road project when completed will not just improve the economy of the Ogoni kingdom but that of Rivers State and Nigeria in general. The value chain of the advantages of the road would also rob off positively on the multinational companies, such as the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG among others. Heavy duty trucks of these oil companies would be plying that same road, they also claim.
The oil mining license, otherwise known as OML 11 is one of the largest onshore blocs in the country. It spans through some two local government areas in Ogoniland and beyond. The oil is of a quality type and a huge economic potential.
The Value Of OML 11
According to a researched statistics, OML 11 is “owned as an unincorporated joint venture (JV) between Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) with a 55% shareholding of the JV, Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) 30%, ENPL (a subsidiary of Total) 10% and Agip a subsidiary of ENI with a 5% shareholding”.
It therefore implies at this point that whether the federal government relinquishes the operatorship of the facility to NNPC, it cannot totally dismiss the fact that Shell is missing out completely in the operation of the oil field.
“Oil was discovered in Ogoni in 1958. Throughout the history of oil production in the area, the JV encountered sporadic challenges with the host community until determined community protests escalated tensions. In January 1993 SPDC declared force majeure.
“Until 1993 when oil production ceased at a peak of 28,000bpd, the fields had yielded 634 million barrels of oil worth $5.2 billion according to SPDC figures and $30 billion by community accounts”.
According to available record, “federal government is keen about returning to the field of production due to the potential impact on revenue. Although estimates vary – no seismic survey has been performed for over 30 years – it is believed that the area contains as much as 1 billion barrels of crude and as much as 11 trillion cubic feet of associated and non-associated gas.
“The Ogoni fields represent one of the most valuable oil and gas ventures in Africa if the political, commercial, community issues can be unlocked to enable oil production to resume”.
The leaked memo from Abba Kyari appears to have set the Ogoni people on red alert. They are of the opinion that the Nigerian government does not care a hoot about the avoidable crisis they have been subjected to due to excessive environmental pollution and degradation. But what the establishment cares more is the oil and its billion dollar revenue.
MOSOP’s Response To Leaked Memo
MOSOP on hearing of the memo described the plans to resume oil production in Ogoni without the consent of the Ogoni people as a continuation of the genocide against the Ogonis being prosecuted by Shell and the Nigeria state.
President of MOSOP, Fegalo Nsuke made the observation during a meeting with the leadership of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP), the youth wing of MOSOP, led by its president, Theophilus Mbagha (Esq) at the MOSOP National Secretariat in Bori-Ogoni.
Nsuke told the youth leaders that the attempt to force oil resumption in Ogoni was clearly a continuation of the repression the Ogoni people had suffered in Nigeria, describing it as shameful for a country which seeks to play a leading role in the West African sub-region to be killing its own people with ease.
He said it was a national shame for Nigeria whose representative currently sits on the United Nations Human Rights Commission to be entangled in the humiliating disregard for human rights as is the case with the Ogoni people.
Citing the notorious document leaked to the public during the regime of late General Sani Abacha “Wasting Operations”, in which government planned to maintain military presence in Ogoni and which caused crises within and between communities, the MOSOP President said the plans to resume oil drilling operations in Ogoni was a prosecution of the recommendations of late General Abacha’s era in the “Wasting Operations”.
This new plot will certainly generate conflicts between local Ogoni dwellers and state security forces that have always been used to repress peaceful protests against injustice. He said it was very disturbing that a justifiable demand for fairness and equity to end the discrimination against the Ogoni people was being repressed by Shell and the Nigerian state.
Nsuke explained the Ogoni people were not asking for too much, noting that as a major contributor to the Nigerian economy with capacity for 185,000 barrels of crude oil daily, huge gas reserves, two sea ports, two refineries, a petro-chemical complex, a power plant amongst others, the Ogoni people deserve the best treatment in Nigeria.
“It is regrettable and unacceptable that the government takes our land, our resources and shares it to the rest of Nigeria leaving the Ogoni people empty”.
The Ogoni struggle had been to secure the future of Ogoni people, which has been destroyed through Nigeria’s unfair and discriminatory laws as well as Shell’s unethical and irresponsible business practices of over 50 years.
The MOSOP President used the opportunity to call on Ogonis and all men of god conscience to stand for truth and justice and urge Nigeria to respect the political rights of the Ogoni people for self-determination.
“Shell and Nigeria have taken everything from us, they have taken away our land, they have taken away our resources and the proceeds from the sales are shared to the rest of Nigeria and all we are left with are the painful consequences of revenue generation. That is not acceptable to us and we demand a change” Nsuke said.
ROBOMICHAEL LINK/ROYAL FATHERS’ ENDORSEMENT
About 25-years after oil exploration and production activities came to a disastrous halt in OML 11, some Royal Fathers in Ogoniland turned coat last year by endorsing an indigenous oil firm, RoboMicheal Limited to commence operation in the Ogoni oilfield. A clear case of divide and rule system through the instrumentality of the filthy lucre.
Another indigenous oil company that made effort to penetrate the Ogoni for the operation of the lucrative oil field was the Belemaoil. These companies lined the pockets of individuals to solicit their support to gain access to the seat of this black gold. It almost ended in a war of attrition.
Some members of MOSOP which used to be a respected mouthpiece of the Ogoni people were divided along the line of interest. They were accused of taking some bribes just to bring the highest bidder to resume operation of the oil facility in Ogoni. This was the major reason that made mutual suspicion to creep into MOSOP and then caused the division being witnessed today.
The Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers and the Conference of Ogoni Traditional Rulers jointly gave the endorsement as its resolution reached at the end of a meeting of the 27 members of the Council held in the Palace of its Chairman, HRH, King Godwin Giniwa in Korokoro, Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The 27 members of the Ogoni Traditional council which represented the 27 Kingdoms and communities of Ogoni, said the endorsement of RoboMicheal Limited was imperative as the company had been engaging the people and already had obtained the operatorship license for OML11 from the Federal Government.
It will be recalled that the spokesperson of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers and Paramount Ruler of Kpite Community, HRH King Samuel Nnee, who read the communiqué to newsmen at the end of the meeting explained that RoboMicheal was committed to the development of Ogoniland.
Nnee said that the resumption of oil exploration activities in Ogoniland by the indigenous oil firm would 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.
“We, the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers in consultation with our people, have resolved to adopt RoboMichael Limited as our preferred company to operate OML11 assets situated in our land in line with the decision of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We further agreed that RoboMichael Limited only will be allowed to operate OML11 Ogoni fields, which was before now managed by SPDC.
“Robomichael in consultation with the community leaders will ensure community development projects that have been identified by the communities such as establishing schools, the building of power stations, provision of employment, establishing of modular refineries, awarding of scholarships etc, for the overall benefit of the people of Ogoni”.
The council said the youths of Ogoni who after many years of training in the higher institutions with their certificates will stop roaming the streets in search of employment as RoboMichael was ready to offer them lucrative jobs when it resumes operations.
The Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC for their interest in the development of the Ogoniland.
“We thank President Muhammadu Buhari and the management of NNPC for the interest shown in the re-entry plan into Ogoniland for the development of our people, communities and the country at large, through a partnership of NNPC and RoboMichael Limited.”
More shocking, the Chairman, Conference of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, COTRE, HRH King Suanu Baridam, assured that there was no division in Ogoniland, and the Supreme Council represented every community in Ogoni.
King Baridam who is the Gbenemene of Bua-Bangha Kingdom assured the people of Ogoni that information that RoboMicheal was not a proxy to SPDC, and challenged people to make their investigations to prove otherwise.
He stated that although it was not a closed chapter for other companies to still discuss with Ogoni, the Royal Fathers resolved to adopt and endorsed RoboMicheal since the Federal Government through NAPIMS had already issued the company the operatorship license for OML11.
“The Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers of Ogoni are the fathers and heads of the entire communities of Ogoni. We have taken a decision, a decision to work with Robomichael since the Federal Government has given them the license to explore oil in Ogoni.
“I can reliably inform you that MOSOP has not disagreed with the resumption of oil drilling in Ogoniland, MOSOP’s position is that any company coming to explore oil must adhere to its template. For us as the royal fathers and custodians of the land, we have taken our decision and RoboMicheal is our decision.”
The Ogoni oilfield, no doubt, is one of the largest fields in Nigeria with about 140 oil wells which has the capacity to produce over 200,000barrels of crude oil per day, because the federal government needs more resources to service this year’s budget, it looks clear there will be no going back in the OML 11 operation no matter the resistance.
DRAWING GLOBAL ATTENTION
Comrade Legborsi Pyagbara of MOSOP has taken the protest against the planned re-entry of Shell’s proxies to commence oil operations in Ogoni to Brussels, Belgium where he is holding meeting with the leadership of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations (UNPO), diplomats at the European Commission and non-governmental organisations advocating for Indigenous and minority peoples.
The MOSOP leader had held meeting with the Secretary-General of UNPO, Mr. Ralph Bunche at the UNPO Secretariat, Brussels where he handed over the MOSOP petition to the President of Nigeria, Gen. Muhamnadu Buhari over the controversial transfer of operatorship of OML 11 without due consultation with Ogoni People including the recent killing of Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, a chieftain of MOSOP.
During the handover, Legborsy called on UNPO to help and collaborate with MOSOP to raise the issue of the Ogoni people internationally as they did earlier in the Ogoni struggle particularly now that the government wants to forcefully reenter the area without addressing the basic issues involved in the Ogoni struggle.
He charged UNPO to lead the campaign in Europe and beyond especially now that the UNPO Secretariat is located in the headquarters of the European Parliament and the European Commission.
The UNPO Secretary-General, Mr. Ralph Bunche responded that the Ogoni people were a strategic partner of the UNPO promising that they would do all in their powers to ensure that the attention of the world was drawn to this emerging conflict on the attempt for resumption of oil operations on the Ogoni area by the government.
Bunche assured that UNPO was going to mobilize international support for the position of the Ogoni people until the government responds positively. He charged the Ogoni people to remain resilient, dogged and united for the cause of justice.
HYPOCRISY OF CLEANUP
By now, it has become very clear to every doubting mind that the most celebrated Ogoni cleanup was nothing worth its name but a tactical cover up for a smooth re-entry for oil exploration.
Dr. Samson Kabari, head of environment of the center for environment and human rights development, CEHRD, said that the cleanup exercise was lacking in many scientific reasons which therefore gives the impression that the handlers of the project were either incompetent or collaborative to frustrate the people of Ogoni.
Often times, MOSOP and environmental activists have raised the alarm over the delay in the commencement of the actual cleanup of the Ogoni environment almost three years since the federal government flagged off the exercise with funfair at Bodo City in Gokana local government area of the state.
Kabari wondered that if the seriousness of HYPREP and the companies who have been awarded the contracts is anything to believe, people will like to see the site allotted for the cleaning of the bad soil which has to be excavated first from the original polluted site.
“You must do excavation before you clean. That means that you need to acquire a piece of land away from the polluted site for the polluted soil to be cleanup before bringing it back to its initial position. I have not seen such acquired site yet.
“If the actual cleanup exercise starts today, where are the contractors going to dump the bad soil! Of course, they don’t need to just dump the excavated bad soil carelessly somewhere because doing so will further contaminate a hitherto clean site therefore worsening the already bad situation”, he said in an exclusive interview.
The environmentalist hinted that there must be an integrated soil management center or something close to that. “I have not seen anything like that yet. These and a lot other things are some of the basic startups that either the companies or the HYPREP itself needed to put in place to ascertain their state of readiness to clean-up the polluted environment”.
The environmentalist warned some locals to be careful about people that may come to buy their land for a purpose that may not be disclosed to them but later turned out to be used as a dumpsite for the bad soil excavated from the polluted site by contractors.
The unprecedented level of poverty in Ogoni would spur many to let go their land for any sum of money just to assuage their hunger. They may not know of what usage such piece of land would be turned into.