Forty-five per cent of Shell Petroleum Development Company’s (SPDC’s) interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 in Ejama and other communities in Ogoni have been acquired by the Rivers State Government.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced the acquisition on Monday in a broadcast titled: “We will continue to advance the state’s interest, security and prosperity of all.”
The governor promised that the state would ensure that the field comes on stream before the end of next year.
He said: “I am delighted to inform you that the Rivers State government has fully acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria’s (SPDC’s) 45 per cent interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 situated in Ejama Ebubu Community in Eleme Local Government Area and the adjoining Ogoni and other communities of Rivers State.”
He said the acquisition followed a High Court order, declaring the state as the purchaser of “the right, title and interest” of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Land/Immovable Property.
The order was subsequent upon Suit No. filed by one Chief Agbara Isaac Osaro and five others against SPDC, Shell International Petroleum Company Limited Shell International Exploration and Production BV and Government of Rivers State.
Displaying certified true copy of the order, Wike said: “I directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporate to make a bid of USD 150,000,000 ($150 milliom) supported by bank guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1 billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors, while the former is escrowed.”
He noted that the acquisition followed last Wednesday’s order by the High Court of Rivers state declaring the state as purchaser of Shell assets sold.
“I have further directed the relevant government agencies to take immediate steps to liaise with any financially capable companies to partner with the Rivers State government to ensure that the said oil field come on stream within 15 months from today (Monday).”
He said the decision was taken with “all sense of responsibility believing that addressing the pains and poverty of our people with resultant security and welfare of the main purpose of governance and nothing less.”
He described the move as profound economic investment with profound and enduring positive implications on peace, security, development and prosperity for the oil-bearing communities in the OML 11, the entire state and Nigerian in general.
He said the state was desirous of restarting oil production so that the Federal Government can start reaping from its 55per cent stake in the field, while the state could also be receiving its 13percent derivation funds.
“In line with our commitment to accelerate development, industrial harmony and security, the Rivers State government will graciously concede some portion of the its four per cent equity interest to all the oil producing communities within OML 11 to enhance mutual ownership participation and sharing in the benefits of these resources,” the governor said.
He traced the problem of the OML 11 to a major oil spill from SPDC’s Trans Niger High Pressure Crude oil Pipeline at Ejama community, which approximately 255 hectares of arable agricultural land, fishing swamps and rivers devastated.
Noting that SPDC admitted the spill was from its pipeline in 1970, he lamented that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant failed to de-pollute the area, leading to several lawsuits, which the company lost, including a fresh cases the commenced in 2011, spanning through four different courts.
He said: “The enforcement cases had been to Owerri, Abuja, Lagos, etc in six different law suits…
“The judgments of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court were registered in the United Kingdom for enforcement against SPDC parent companies domiciled outside Nigeria’s shores.”
As the community commenced enforcement of the judgment, Wike said the state government moved to acquire the assets in order to avert another round of deprivation and pauperisation of the people by external buyers.
“That the present government of Rivers State entrusted in my care through the will of God and those of the peoples of the Rivers State have concluded that it will be in the overall interest of the state, the other federating states and the Federal Government that we as a government, should make a bid for the purchase of the said interest of SPDC now placed on auction by extant Order of the Courts of Law.”
“That rather than standby and watch other persons or group purchase SPDC 45 per cent interest in that OML 11 and further exacerbate the poverty of the people of the State, a responsible and responsive State Government should weigh in and bid for the purchase of SPDC interest already set down for auction.”
He went: “That for the past 25 years, the rich oil potentials of OML 11 have remained untapped following the hanging of the world-renown Ogoni poet and environmental activist, Mr. Ken SaroWiwa and the Ogoni 9 as well as the unfortunate mob lynching and death of four prominent Ogoni citizens, one of whom was the Secretary of Government of the Rivers State and another, a Commissioner under the tenure of Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo as Governor of Rivers State.
“That it has become unlikely that for peace and security, the people of Ogoni in the Rivers State will welcome SPDC on their land forming part of OML 11.
“That the Rivers State government has continued to lose 13 per cent derivation fund from the said 55% stake of the Federal Government in that field for nearly 30 years now, which revenue would have transformed the State and its peoples for the better.”
Outlining the circumstances that led to the dispute between the communities and SPDC, the governor said it was due to a major oil spill from SPDC Trans Niger High Pressure Crude Oil Pipeline at Ejama community, which ravaged over 255 hectares of arable land, fishing swamps and rivers.