Resentment heightens in Ogoni over OML 11

There is growing resentment in Ogoni Land over moves by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to retain its lease of Oil Mining Lease OML 11.

Ogoni elders under the aegis of Gbo-Kabarii, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), and Conscience of the Ogoni People (COOP) have vowed that SPDC will not be allowed to operate in Ogoni under any guise.

The leader of Gbo Kabarii, Senator Bennett Birabi said it was worrisome that an Abuja High Court could ignore security concerns raised by the Federal Government for not renewing SPDC’s bid, to renew OML lease by saying the Petroleum Act made it mandatory for the Minister of Petroleum to grant a renewal of license, if an applicant met all the conditions.

“You cannot stay in a court in Abuja and take decisions about somebody else’s homeland. Yes, the field belongs to the Federal Government and that is why laws are made. A lease was signed for these people and the lease has expired. If a lease has expired, the owner of the property reserves the power not to renew the lease. That is what the layman understands.”

Gbo-Kabarii warned that even if Shell’s lease was renewed for the next 50 years, it would not operate any oilfield in Ogoni.

According to him, Ogoni oilfields have a bloody history and the wishes of the Ogoni people forbidding Shell and its proxies re-entering their land must be respected.

“If they renew the lease for another 50 years, Shell cannot operate in Ogoni. And on the other hand, the Federal Government needs resources from the fields, so why should the Federal Government be held hostage? Are we in a foreign land?

Shell cannot enter the place, so it cannot operate it. If it had been in a position to enter the place there would be no problem, but 25 years on what makes Shell think that it can enter Ogoni Land after 50 years? If things are done right, our opinion should determine the decision of the government,” he said.

OML 11 spans an area of 3, 095. 25 square kilometres, and it stretches between Rivers and Imo states. There are 14 plum oilfields in OML 11, out of which 10 are located in Ogoni, where Shell was forced to leave in 2003 due to community revolt over the despoliation of their ecosystem, occasioned by activities of SPDC and her joint venture partners.

The Presidency had in March directed the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Limited, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to take over the operation of the entire OML 11 from Shell, citing irreconcilable conflict between the company and Ogoni people. The Federal Government described the frosty relationship between Shell and Ogoni as a national security issue.

An oil expert who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that Shell wants to sell its stake in the bloc on its own terms. According to him, SPDC is a lot more concerned about ownership, and not operatorship since the situation on the ground in Ogoni does not favour its re-entry into the area, even through proxies.

“SPDC now wants to get a better stake. The company knows that it cannot come to Ogoni to drill oil. But it wants to retain ownership completely and then sell it at its own terms, or better bargaining from the Federal Government. There are certain clauses that Shell is exploring, and that was why it got the judgment.

“These contracts are not very open to the public. I expect the people of Niger Delta to capitalise on this by saying two strange parties cannot come and sell off our natural endowment. Whereas, there is no party in this that is indigenous to the joint venture, not the state, local government, the community, and not the family that owns the land. Two strangers are dragging what does not naturally belong to them. It is sad,” he added.

COOP National Coordinator, Gani Topba, said the group has alerted Amnesty International, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to keep an eye on developments in the country, particularly with respect to the desperate scheme of Shell to re-enter Ogoni Land against the wishes of the people.

“We call on them to hold SPDC and Royal Dutch Shell Plc., responsible should any harm come to any section of the Ogoni population who are peacefully asserting their legitimate rights,” said Topba.