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Host communities warn FG against re-issuing OML11 licence without consultation

By Ann Godwin and Obinna Nwaoku, Port Harcourt
03 August 2022   |   2:19 am
Oil Mining Licence (OML) 11 host communities, comprising the Ogonis and Asa on the Imo River axis in Rivers and Abia states, have warned the Federal Government against re-issuing the facility...

Oil Mining Licence (OML) 11 host communities, comprising the Ogonis and Asa on the Imo River axis in Rivers and Abia states, have warned the Federal Government against re-issuing the facility to any operator without wider consultation.

They insist on being carried along in the processes leading to the eventual re-issuance of the oil well to any operator.

The communities, therefore, called on the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), to dialogue with them before granting the operatorship licence.

The national oil firm had regained the oil well from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), last year, after the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal upturned the August 23, 2019 ruling of the Federal High Court in favour of the Dutch multinational to renew OML 11 licence.

In the judgment, the appellate court held that the Minister of Petroleum “has the discretion to renew or not the OML 11 lease in favour of SPDC.”

Gani Topba, who spoke, on behalf of the host communities, said the dialogue was necessary to make the people have a sense of belonging following years of suffering and neglect.

Addressing an audience at Owaza, Ukwa West Local Council of Abia State, he regretted that the communities had remained in abject poverty, while multinationals made huge fortunes from their God-given resources.

Topba said: “There have been agitations in this part of OML11 when Shell’s licence was about to be renewed. We all gathered here and did a meeting, demanding that the Federal Government should not re-issue the licence.

“We all agreed that government should give the licence to NPDC. And today, government has given NPDC the licence. The community supported NPDC, but NPDC needs to have proper discussion with the communities.

“NPDC has taken over the facility, but had not held talks with us. Instead, they are having an agreement with Sahara Energy to access the place. How can NDPC not dialogue with the host communities before bringing in another company?”

He maintained that any re-issuance of the oil facility in the absence of robust involvement of the host communities would be tantamount to undermining their interest.

Topba also sought United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) assessment of Asa, Imo River axis of OML11 to engender a cleanup

“We will not accept Sahara Energy. So, NPDC needs to come with their plan and discuss with the communities to know their interests.

“So one of the things we are going to do is to look into how the NPDC must dialogue with us. First, we have rejected Sahara Energy,” he added.

In his remarks, paramount ruler of Owaza community, Eze Obioma Nworgu, urged government to clean up oil-impacted communities in the area.

He lamented that despite being a major host to OML 11 and having a flow station, the settlement lacks electricity, good roads and employment.

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