Indigenes of Opu-Nembe Kingdom of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, yesterday described as “shocking” and “a deliberate contempt” the position of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu on the litigation files by one of the host communities of OML 29 against the renewal of licence to Aiteo Exploration limited.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu had during the just concluded Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair, denied knowledge of the legal redress sought by the community in Bayelsa over the planned renewal of the OML 29 lease.
According to him, though he is yet to be served the court process, the agitation and court action by the community would not affect the licensing process or disrupt oil production.
He said the disagreement between the operators of the oil bloc and members of he host communities had no bearing with the licensing process. But the legal counsel to Opu-Nembe Kingdom and former Commissioner for Enviroment, Mr Iniruo Wills, faulted the Minister’s claim,describing it as a careless lie.
Wills, who is also President of the Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland chapter) said: “That is a careless lie and a shocking disregard for the legal process and rule of law.“ It unveils the Minister’s sheer contempt for oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, and is extremely insensitive coming from such a highly placed public policy executive, especially a very senior lawyer, for its obvious potential to provoke host communities to take matters into their own hands, which we do not encourage and must do everything to avoid, including the plaintiff communities’ adoption of the legal process that Ibe Kachikwu is now thumbing his nose at.
”It would be recalled that the people of Opu-Nembe (Nembe-Bassambiri) in Bayelsa State on March 26 urged the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, to halt the renewal of lease for OML 29 to Aiteo pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court. The development is sequel to plans by the Minister of Petroleum Resources to renew the lease of OML 29 oil block to Aiteo for $82 million without regard to the position of the community in Suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
The plaintiffs are Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B.C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 host communities. The defendants are Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.Others are Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd, Attorney-General of Bayelsa State and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa State Ministry of Lands. The application sought an order restraining the Minister of Petroleum Resources from granting any application for the renewal of OML 29 “beyond the subsisting 30-year term.