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The Ogoni people in Rivers State and the Federal Government of Nigeria have promised to work together.
The indigenes said they will henceforth allow the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) peacefully carry out oil and gas exploration and production in their territory.
The deal was struck on Tuesday, two weeks after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) defeated Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in court.
The Court of Appeal declared that the state oil company has the operatorship rights of Oil Mining License 11 (OML 11).
The court upturned the August 23, 2019 ruling of the Federal High Court which held that Shell was entitled to the renewal of the lease on OML 11.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources has the discretion whether or not to renew the OML 11 Lease in Shell’s favor, the appellate court ruled.
In a strong statement, NNPC Managing Director, Mele Kyari subtly warned that further lawsuits would be considered an affront on the powers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“In the light of their inability to work on the Ogoni region of the block for over 30 years, further legal action by Shell will not only be futile, it would be depriving Nigeria of an opportunity to forward”, he told the oil giant.
Under the auspices of the Ogoni Liberation Initiative, the region’s leaders, at the Ogoni Liberation Day which held in Bori, met with the NPDC leadership.
The Managing Director, Mohammed Ali-Zarah honoured their invitation to attend the event as a guest.
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Convener of the Ogoni Liberation Initiative, Rev. Douglas Fabeke, commended the Court of Appeal for the judgement.
He said the Ogonis welcomed with great joy the intervention of the government and the takeover of the oil assets by the NPDC.
Fabeke called the development a liberation for the indigenes, disclosing that they “looked forward to this freedom over the years”.
The leader praised President Muhammadu Buhari for his administration’s commitment to the development of Ogoniland.
“The Ogoni people are ready for oil and gas business to entrench development in partnership with the NNPC and the Federal Government of Nigeria through a transformed template and practical community development delivered by the host communities.
“The Ogoni people are ready to do all forms of businesses with the state, federal and global corporate communities for the development of their land, provided the business is anchored upon Ogoni development,” he said.
Fabeks submitted a communique on behalf of the Ogonis to the Federal Government. It contains conditions for a lasting mutual relationship between the people and NPDC, including provision of more infrastructure.
They requested that the clean-up of communities be re-visited and that the government should mandate the handling agency to expedite actions in line with the UNEP Report recommendations.
The people suggested government could also allow them to bring experts that would carry out the implementation.
In his remark, Ali-Zarah said the company understood the concerns and yearnings of the Ogoni people and shared in their pain.
He said NPDC and the Federal Government would work with the Ogoni people to bring development, employment and growth to the land, remediate the environment and ensure that future exploration and production.
Ali-Zarah noted that the large turn-out of natives, including traditional rulers, at the event was a huge moral boost to NPDC’s confidence in its re-entry plan.
“This is a clear testimonial and demonstration of the strong cordial relationship that has existed between us over the years. This, for us, is our social license to operate in this peace-loving community”, the MD added.