The long-drawn dispute over the operation of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 located in Belema community of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State has been resolved.
This follows the signing of the dispute closure agreement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), its joint venture partners, Shell Production Development Company (SPDC) and Belema Oil in Abuja.
The trio have now agreed that operations at the oil well would take off in the next 10 days.
Expressing delight over the outcome, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Silva, thanked all the parties stressing that the step signified the beginning of a new chapter in the industry.
“When I came into the office, the issue was one of the problems that came on the table; there were so many letters from communities complaining about the problem.
“I just decided to invite Shell to hear its own part of the story but fortunately, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, had intervened in the matter.
“So, I have the honour now to thank him for this great intervention.
“And also thank Shell and Belema for cooperating to ensure that there is closure to this matter that has bedeviled the industry for so long,” he said.
The real winners
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari said that the development was a big achievement for the corporation.
“For us, the most important aspect of the dispute resolution is that, at least, the communities will have their peace restored..
“That means that there is prosperity for the community and also some returns to shareholders of Belema Oil, NNPC and Nigeria at large,” he said.
Kyari commended the Belema Oil for its role and assured full engagement of the communities, adding that all the parties would be taken care of.
The NNPC boss also said that all opportunities found would be shared equitably for overall peace and development of the country.
The Managing Director of Shell, Osagie Okunbor said that the dispute had been for two years thanked all stakeholders for resolving the dispute.
“We have been in discussion with communities and Belema Oil and sometimes under the auspices of government.
“We are very pleased that we have finally brought this to a conclusion, to work on some agreements with communities to achieve speedy return to operations on that facility,” he said.
He said that to meet the plight of the host communities, Shell had paid in the Joint MOU account, over N300 million to restart community efforts it had not done because of some issues.
Okunbor said that under the joint MOU framework, monies would be paid into communities’ accounts to execute projects to ensure that employment opportunities get to the people.
The President and Founder, Belema OIL, Jack Rich-Tein, also said the agreement signaled that stakeholders shared common interest and value of lifting the country high and strengthening relationships.
“What has been resolved is that, we have agreed to work together, SPDC and Belema Oil.
“Belema Oil is now going to be able to create a lot of employment opportunities for the communities under operations and maintenance part of the operations.
“SPDC remains the operators because they still have the licence, the communities will be happy because we will employ them and they will be able to work with SPDC.
“The key thing there is getting back to work and creating jobs for the local communities, everybody will be happy.”
He said that Belema OIL with 7.7 per cent asset would provide the operation maintenance and employ the community members through that platform.
The operation in OML 25 stopped since in 2017 when the host communities sent SPDC away from operating in the facility over issues of environmental degradation, unemployment, underdevelopment among others.