The seeming mutual mistrust between the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas super major, Shell, and her host communities in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s polluted oil region, crept into the front burner of the ongoing parley aimed at resolving the protracted conflict on the Oil Mining License (OML) 25. With Nigeria said to have so far loss N700 billion as oil revenue since communal disagreements forced Shell, the operating company to shutdown one of its key flow stations in the Kalabari axis of Rivers State, the state government last week intervened as a mediator with the hope of brokering a truce for the facility to be reopen.
Communities hosting the oil facility in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state have been voicing their developmental concerns which they have been praying Shell to address.
Shell’s General Manager in charge of External Relations, Igo Weli, says there are rules governing how the big oil operates with her host communities, adding however that they are ready to dialogue with the communities and resolve issues raised.
According to the Shell spokesman, one of the troubling issues has to do with funds. ‘’The fund for each community is stipulated in the General Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) and each community will have their community trust and even though one community has a problem we can give you your money to go ahead.
‘’So, once we do it properly, specify how much belongs to each community, have your own community trust, one community will not hold the other communities down. If you have a problem we localise the problem and sort out the one we can operate.
‘’That’s what we have been doing’’, he said and accordingly pointed out that there is N960 million on ground in line with the existing GMoU.
Shell, according to him, is ready to invest the funds. ‘’There is no perfect solution. Once we get 80 percent of the people to agree, let’s do it. We want to operate in a way that all stakeholders will feel recognised.
‘’There are rules. Once we agree on the rules, we will move forward. The GMoU will be modified to meet the new realities.’’
But the Amanyanabo of Kula, Kroma Eleki, at the talks alleged that Shell was working with a section of his kingdom to marginalise others, claiming that it embolden some community leaders to fuel the marginalisation.
Continuing, the monarch said when Shell started operations, it was agreed that 60 percent of proceeds must go to Kula community and 30 percent to Belema and regretted that Shell failed to respect the pact.
While charging Shell to implement its Corporate Social Responsibility to the host communities, Eleki also called on the Federal Government to always work towards protecting the interest of oil-bearing communities.
On his part, the Amanyanabo of Belema, Ibinabo Kalaoriye, said Belema is also a host community, regretting that all the funds meant for the community were allegedly being diverted to Kula.
According to him, ‘’OML 25 was illegally occupied by some persons who connived with another set of soldiers to take over the facility. To therefore move forward, no funds meant for the development of Belema should be sent to Kula.’’
Also speaking, the Amanyanabo of Opu-Kula, Hope Opusingi, said Shell should come out clean and declare the funds due the disputing communities on the basis of the GMoU, adding that the parley should agree on the amount of funds Shell should invest and communities that are entitled to the investment.
In attendance at the parley are Secretary to the State Government, Dr, Tammy Danagogo, Akuku-Toru Local Government Chairman, Rowland Sekibo, the state legislators representing Akuku-Toru Constituency 1, Major Jack and Opuende Lolo, representing Akuku-Toru Constituency 2, as well as OML 25 stakeholders.