How do you reconcile that with the United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP)-sponsored Ogoni clean-up exercise still neither here nor there despite the ceremonial flag-off by President Mohammadu Buhari, a government-owned oil company Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), could be moving ahead to re-enter the crisis area for oil production?
Is the government feigning ignorance of the fact that re-commencement of oil exploitation activities or even the talk of it at this time in Ogoniland would undoubtedly incite protest against whoever is scheming to come in to mine oil?
The Nigerian subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) was supposed to be the operator (owner) of the Oil Mining Lease (OML 11) covering the Ogoni area of Rivers state.
The company has 98 oil wells in about seven oilfields in the area.
It also has five flowstations in Bodo West, Bomu, Yorla, Korokoro and Ebubu.
Daily output from the area, according to Shell statistics, was at 28, 000 barrels per day before the shut-in in 1993 after the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa et al.
It would be recalled that the federal government in what seemed like the ultimate solution to the almost two decades of sustained enmity and total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell, decided that the oil giant should divest all its operations in Ogoniland for a new oil firm to come in.
And as said, the company’s operating license in the area would be revoked and new operator (s) would take over the company’s oilfields and facilities in the area.
The government believed the best solution would be to allow another operator acceptable to the Ogonis take over exploitation activities in the area as nobody was gaining from the conflict and stalemate.
The question now is:
Has Shell in spirit and truth completely divested (hands- off) its interests in OML 11 covering the Ogoni area of Rivers state?
This is a very crucial issue because there are so many things that are not very clear in the present rush by the NNPC upstream subsidiary, NPDC to takeover Shell’s interest in OML 11 towards restarting of oil exploration and production in the controversial area.
As said by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), the re-introduction of the controversial issue of restarting oil production in Ogoniland by the NNPC at a time the Ogoni people and indeed the entire global community are expecting the federal government to move with some deliberate speed in the implementation of the monumental remediation and restoration of the already over-polluted Ogoni environment is being perceived as provocative and assaulting the collective interest of our people.
Without mincing words, there are so many sensitive issues in the entire asset divestment and acquisition scheme that still need to be thoroughly addressed before any talk of a new entrant venturing into the area to avert a repeat of what led to the Shell crisis.
Above all, if some of these issues are ignored or treated casually, they are likely to introduce serious complications in the UNEP- mediated peace process and the clean -up and remediation exercise in Ogoniland that was flagged- off few weeks ago by the federal government.
It is unacceptable that many sensitive issues in the entire Shell’s asset divestment and acquisition plans are shrouded in much secrecy and this needs to be thoroughly examined.
Could the present attempt be a ploy by Shell and NPDC both of whom are joint venture partners, to cause violent crisis in the area with view of derailing the remediation and restoration process?
We need to watch these two companies closely especially as their track records show that nothing is impossible with them!
First, it is very crucial to ascertain who now actually owns OML 11?
Has Shell actually divested from oil mining lease?
Does the lease now belong to NNPC/NPDC that was hitherto in joint venture partnership with Shell as the operator?
When was the divestment done and how did the NNPC that was a co-culprit in the bastardisation of Ogoniland acquire the lease?
If the federal government actually ordered Shell to relinquish its operational rights in Ogoni oil fields to a new operator (which now turning out to be NPDC), how is the government going to get Shell to pay its counterpart funding for the clean-up and remediation exercise as proposed by the United Nations Environmental Programme for the Ogoni area?
Is the NPDC as the new operator going to inherit only the assets of Shell in the oil concession without the accompanying liabilities or will inherit both?
Is it not better for the federal government to have allowed the UNEP-proposed clean-up and remediation exercise to be completed or even record some tangible milestones before the talk of asset takeover by a new firm?