Since Austin Tam-George defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) he has tried to please the powers that be in the political party and, in fact, the Federal Government. He has elected to fault the actions, even when good, of those he considers enemies of the APC.
Recently, he took on the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for intervening in the Oil Mining License (OML) 25 conflict, wherein the APC Federal Government renewed the operating license of Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC). He, however, forgot that, last year, he defended Shell and called out Governor Wike over the planned relocation of the supply base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State, to Lagos.
It is obvious that the former information commissioner was not aware of several efforts that Governor Wike made to stop that relocation. The governor had met with the top management of Shell Petroleum, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and other relevant stakeholders over planned relocation of the supply base of SNEPCO from Rivers to Lagos. To him, the interest of Rivers State is paramount at all times. He takes actions to enhance the overall interest of the state.
The facts on OML 25 are very clear. The facility was shut down in 2017 by some persons who were allegedly primed by an interest group. The Rivers State governor made no attempt to intervene since the interest group claimed that an indigenous operator had also applied for the operating licence. In October 2018, the APC Federal Government, through the NNPC, renewed the operating licence of SPDC. This operating licence will remain valid for the next 20 years.
The position of the Rivers State governor is simple. Due process of the law must be observed at all times. The company with the operating licence for OML 25 should be allowed to carry out its legitimate business. He stated that, if the indigenous firm is able to obtain the operating licence from the APC Federal Government, then the state government will fully back it. But at present, the operating licence of the SPDC has been renewed by the APC Federal Government. This renewal was not facilitated by the Rivers State governor. The only thing the governor has done is to continue to promote a conducive investment environment in Rivers State. He has continued to create the right environment for international and local investors to operate. The governor will never lay credence to illegal acquisition of businesses under any guise. There are laid down procedures for operating any oil facility.
The process initiated by Governor Wike was managed by the secretary to the Rivers State government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo. He is an indigene of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area. All stakeholders of the facility participated in the process to ensure that the concerns of the stakeholder communities were duly addressed.
Stakeholder communities of OML 25 and SPDC have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the re-opening of the closed flow station and the payment of outstanding funds owed stakeholder communities under the extant Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU). The MoU signed between Shell and the communities also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account the sum of N1.36 billion.
The settlement agreement was signed on behalf of the communities by traditional rulers, youth presidents, chairmen of community development committees and community leaders. Those who signed the agreement include the stakeholder communities of Kula, Belema, Offoin-Ama, Ibie-Ama, Boro and Opu-Kula. Shell and the other stakeholders have played their respective roles in the agreement reached at the settlement meetings facilitated by the Rivers State governor.
Aside from the OML 25, Governor Wike has intervened in several other challenging issues between host communities and business concerns. Most of these issues have been resolved amicably. The governor intervened in the dispute between Mgbuesilaru community of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and SPDC. The matter has been finally resolved and SPDC has paid Mgbuesilaru community their outstanding debt.
Indeed, on June 13, 2019, Governor Wike met with chairmen of cluster development boards of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema local government areas, oil companies and security agencies at Government House, Port Harcourt. At that meeting, Governor Wike directed the immediate revival of the state steering committee on cluster development boards.
He said: “I will not support any company not to carry out its corporate social responsibilities to their host communities. However, communities must not take laws into their hands. They must not stop production by the operating companies. Such actions will negatively affect the finances of the Federal Government, the state and the local government areas.”
He said, in cases where companies failed to act within the expectations of the communities, the state government would mediate through the steering committee on cluster development boards, which has been inaugurated by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government.
The meeting of June 13, 2019, led to the release of the oil rig of Eroton Oil and Gas Limited by the host communities. Both parties resolved their differences at the meeting.
Issues of development and social services for the state are also being handled by the Wike administration. It is an ongoing process. Kula, like all other communities, has been accommodated by the administration.
As usual, Tam-George feigned ignorance when he accused Governor Wike of collusion with Shell. Is he saying that the APC Federal Government colluded with Shell in renewing their operating license? This is because it was not Governor Wike that renewed the license.
Our country is suffering today because of actions and comments of individuals who dance to every tune, depending on what they have to gain. They never look at the bigger picture. In engaging the process, Governor Wike took into consideration the needs and future of the stakeholder communities of OML 25. He is governor to all Rivers people and he is exercising his mandate for the good of all, Kula inclusive.
•Nwakaudu writes from Port Harcourt