By Ifeanyi Izeze
That the Nigerian Petroleum Minister, General Muhammadu Buhari, could concede to renew with fiat the title deeds of the Nigerian subsidiary of the AngloDutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in OML 11 covering the Ogoni area of Rivers state despite all the pending issues associated with the company’s re-entry efforts into the area is at best a sad triumph of an indecent proposal and at worst, an amiable delusion.
Available information had it that Shell submitted 17 licences for renewal out of which 14 were renewed including the Ogoni OML 11. Others included: OMLs 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 43, 45 and 46. The properties were due to expire in 2019. Those renewed have a new lease of life for another 20 years. However, the Petroleum Minister based on the DPR’s recommendations revoked the licences of three of the submitted acreages including OMLs 31, 33, and 36.
Now this is where the issue lies: The Petroleum Minister with his Department of Petroleum Resources unilaterally split the Ogoni OML 11 into three new acreages because as they said, the old OML 11 is too large (2,800sq km).”
And in what looked like a give-out of their real intention, the Petroleum Ministry declared that “Shell will have a new OML 11, which is one of the three tracts carved out from the old OML 11, but it can apply for any of the remaining two or both.” In other words, the Minister expects Shell to re-apply for the “new” acreages carved out of OML 11, either in sum or in parts.
Industry watchers know that Shell is talking with Transcorp, a Nigerian company which is scouting for $2 billion to pay for 45 percent stake in OMLs 11 and 17. So how is this transaction going to work under the government’s “split -it –to- three acreages” instruction?
There is something that is not adding up in all these and that may be deliberate by the AngloDutch giant to trick both the federal government and the Ogoni people into carving out some troublesome parts of Ogoni area out of the existing dimension of the Lease and covertly handing the carved out portion to a surrogate company. So at the end, Shell will return to Ogoni without a single obligation to the people.
We should actually ask why Shell, against all odds, is still insisting on returning to Ogoni for oil operations. It is becoming very curious because despite the enormous pressure mounted on the AngloDutch interest both in Nigeria and Europe/America, it seemed not deterred at all in scheming to re-enter the area. Could there be something the company does not want new entrants into the Lease to expose?
It is clearly inexplicable that Shell has no authentic and definite number of oil wells in its operations in OML11. Several searches even on the company’s publications always throw up conflicting figures ranging from 112 through 98 to 92 oil wells in the Ogoni area. The issue of the number of oilfields in the area is another controversy. Figures ranging from 9 to 4 oilfields abound everywhere you look. This is really curious!
More so, The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in a recent damning report alleged that Shell Nigeria lied about its oil production capacity in Ogoniland before it shut down operations in 1993.
The Publicity Secretary of MOSOP who made this known during an interactive session with leaders of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) earlier this year in Bori said before Shell shut down its operations in Ogoniland in 1993, the company failed to account for daily output of over157, 000 barrels.
According to MOSOP, available statistics show that while Shell claimed its production capacity in Ogoniland was 28,000 barrels per day, the company was actually producing 185,000 barrels per day.
The MOSOP spokesperson said these facts show that Nigeria lost over N2.8billion ($7,850,000), per day at an exchange rate of N360 to a dollar and presuming that oil sold at $50 for a barrel.
“We have seen that Shell is more powerful than the Nigerian government and this is one instance of that overwhelming influence over Nigeria. How can the government be silent over a $7.8 million daily loss to an irresponsible third party” the group said.
Up till today, Shell is yet to respond to the allegation of under-declaration of its daily production output in the Ogoni area as thrown up by MOSOP.
Tragically, Ogoni has been battered as a people so divided that they no longer have a common cause. Everybody in Ogoniland is a spokesperson for one kai kai group or the other. Meanwhile, each group claims to be representing the interests and rights of Ogoni people. From MOSOP to the scores of splinter groups, has anyone asked to unveil who is actually behind the radical show of interests by Belema Oil and RoboMicheal in taking over Shell’s interests in the Ogoni OML 11?
Is it not clear to the federal government that by attempting to resume oil production in Ogoni under disguise whether through allies of Shell like Belema Oil, Robo Micheal, and NPDC, the government is actually looking for a way to re-enact serious crisis in the area?
How can a responsible government push to re-enter the controversial area and resume oil production without resolving the issues raised by the people as their grievance in the first instance? Look at the cleanup, Shell and the federal government have covertly refused to fund it. Is this not deliberately encouraging crisis in the area? We are watching! God bless Niger Delta!
(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)