Ogoni welcomes resumption of oil production by NPDC

After decades of inactivity, community leaders in Ogoni land, Rivers State, under the auspices of the Ogoni Liberation Initiative, have pledged to cooperate with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) for the resumption of exploration and production of oil and gas resources in their land.

The Ogoni leaders expressed their resolve to eschew bitterness and work with the Federal Government to ensure that the people benefitted from the resources in their land, while restoring the environment.

The leaders made the pledge Tuesday, at the Ogoni Liberation Day, which was held in Bori with the Managing Director of NPDC, Mohammed Ali-Zarah, as an invited guest.

Speaking at the event, the Convener and leader of the Ogoni Liberation Initiative, Rev. Douglas Fabeke, commended the Court of Appeal for the judgement confirming NPDC, the production unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as the valid operator of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11.

Fabeke said the Ogoni people welcomed with great joy the Federal Government’s intervention and the takeover of the oil assets by NPDC following the judgement of the Appeal Court in Abuja, saying the people had “looked forward to this freedom over the years”.

He declared, “The Ogoni people are ready for oil and gas business in the land to entrench development in partnership with the NNPC and the Federal Government of Nigeria through a transformed template and practical community development delivered by the host communities. The Ogoni people are ready to do all forms of business with the State, Federal and Global Corporate Communities for the development of their land, provided the business is anchored upon Ogoni development,” he said.

The issue of clean-up in Ogoni land should be revisited, and the Government should mandate the handling agency to expedite actions and clean the land in tune with the UNEP Report’s recommendations.

The Leaders issued a communiqué detailing the condition and other requests for the mutual relationship between the people and NPDC.

The communiqué reads in part: “the issue of clean-up in Ogoni land should be revisited, and the Government should mandate the handling agency to expedite actions and clean the land in tune with the UNEP Report’s recommendations or allow the Ogoni people to bring experts that would perfectly implement the recommendations of the UNEP Report to the letter.”

They also called for expedite action on the provision of infrastructure for the communities. “The Ogoni people will not work under any political manipulation that will affect the development and smooth operation in the land without capturing the interest of the people. We stand by every word drafted here and will implement it to the letter, and also ready to give the Federal Government of Nigeria maximum cooperation to achieve its aim for the success and benefit of the nation and the Ogoni people,” the communiqué stated.

In his remarks, Mohammed Ali-Zarah, said NPDC understood the concerns and yearnings of the Ogoni people and shared in their pain.

He said NPDC and the Federal Government would work with the Ogoni people to bring development, employment and growth to the land, remediate the environment and ensure that future exploration and production activities do not impact negatively on the environment.

Ali-Zarah noted that the large turn-out of people, including traditional rulers, at the event was a huge morale boost to NPDC’s confidence in its re-entry plan.

“Indeed, this is a clear testimonial and demonstration of the strong cordial relationship that has existed between us over the years. This, for us, is our social license to operate in this peace-loving community,” he said.

He observed that it was in the best interest of the country to speedily restore the environment of Ogoniland and create the needed condition for the social economic development of the communities.

“As a viable partner, we would join you to pursue the greater good of our people and the nation. We stand with you and would work with you to achieve this within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Ali-Zarah promised to convey the communiqué signed by leaders of various communities that make up Ogoni land, to the management of the NNPC for onward transmission to the relevant quarters, including the Presidency.

Oil production operations were suspended in Ogoni land in the early 1990s due to disruptions caused by local unrest. The oilfields and other installations have since largely remained dormant.

Hope was, however, rekindled last week following an Appeal Court judgment that paved the way for NPDC to take over the operatorship of the oil assets in Ogoniland from the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja overturned the August 23, 2019, ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which held that the SPDC was entitled to the renewal of the Lease on OML 11.

But in its ruling, the Appellate Court held that the Minister of Petroleum Resources has the discretion whether or not to renew the OML 11 Lease in favour of SPDC. The Court further held that the Minister rightly exercised his discretion in awarding the OML 11 Lease to NPDC.

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