TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has assured the Ejamah community and other host communities of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 that the Rivers State Government will defend their right in any ensuing legal battle over the oil facility acquired by the state government.
Speaking during a visit by the leaders of Ejamah community of Eleme Local Government Area at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Governor Wike commended the community for standing firm and fighting through established due process.
“While I remain governor, one thing I will never do is sell the interest of our people. The property of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) were auctioned and the Rivers State Government bided and acquired them.
“There will be legal battles. The Rivers State Government will stand for Rivers people”, he said.
He reiterated that with the acquisition of the 45 percent stakes of SPDC at OML 11, the Rivers State Government will extend some percentage to the host communities to give them a sense of belonging.
He praised Ejamah community for engaging in the legal battle for 29 years and refusing to be swayed by financial proposals by SPDC.
He said: “I am ready for the legal battle. The interest of Rivers State must be protected at all times. But, for your fight, who will be talking of Rivers State Government acquiring OML 11. OML 11 is not only for Ogoni, it extends to Okrika, Andoni, Oyigbo and Ikwerre.
“Any community linked to OML 11 should be eternally grateful to you. I know some communities that only N300 million will change them. Your refusal to collect N7 billion led to the auctioning of Shell Interest.
“If the Federal Government wants to talk, it is the Rivers State Government it should talk with, because we have acquired Shell’s interest. I am with you. God knows I have no personal interest”.
The governor recommended the style of Ejamah Community, which is based on legal struggles to other communities. He said without violence, Ejamah community defeated SPDC in the courts.
He said no matter the schemes by SPDC, the judgement of the Supreme Court must be implemented. The governor commended the lawyer to the community, Lucius Nwosu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for his trustworthiness.
Wike formally recognised the traditional ruler of Ejamah community as a second class chief. He also directed the reconstruction of Ebubu Community Secondary School.
Earlier, the Leader of the Ejamah Community, Chief George Osaro, said that the people of Ejamah community were happy with the governor’s intervention in OML 11.
He said: “The people of Ejamah community do hereby express our profound gratitude to you for wading into the matter and ensuring that the Rivers State Government purchased the 45 percent interest of SPDC in OML 11.”
He said that the intervention of the governor should not be misconstrued, as it is in the overall interest of the host communities. He said that the action has liberated the people.
Chief Osaro said that Ejamah Ebubu suffered one of the worst oil spill, which negatively affected their environment.
“We must understand that the Governor’s plan is to boost the state economy, create employment and alleviate the suffering of the people, the state and the Niger Delta entirely as well as the nation”, he said.
He described Wike as a pace setter, a visionary leader and emancipator of the people.
The community conferred on the governor a chieftaincy title: “Oneh Owese Oboru Ejamah.”