Imagine for a split second if Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was one of those docile, inconsiderate and anti-people leaders, Oil Mining License (OML) 25 would still be shutdown. If Governor Wike was one of the leaders that could be intimidated by lies, negative propaganda and false paid advertorials/radio programmes, the nation's economy would still be bleeding endlessly from lost revenue.
Thank God Wike "get morale". He has the staying power and courage to withstand the enemies of Rivers State and Nigeria. He is a man of vision with the capacity to ensure the state's goals are achieved.
It was on June 22, 2019 that Governor Wike set the ball rolling for the re-opening of OML 25. Before this historic date, NNPC, the Federal Government and the security agencies made no attempt to re-open the facility. Till date, no explanation has been given for this inaction.
From June 22, 2019, Governor Wike set in motion all the platforms for negotiation, public discourse, social and economic engagements on the re-opening of OML 25. This was the first courageous move to empower all stakeholders for the good of the country.
The meeting in question had in attendance Shell Petroleum Development Company, the host communities of OML 25, security agencies and Belema Oil. This meeting laid out the template for the resolution of outstanding grievances.
On June 27, 2019 , Stakeholder communities of Oil Mining License (OML) 25 in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) agreed on the procedures for the re-opening of the oil facility during a meeting facilitated by Governor Wike at the Government House Port Harcourt.
Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the modalities for the release of intervention funds were agreed upon.
After these meetings, several engagements for the re-opening of the facility continued, despite the sponsored attacks on the person of Governor Wike. All Governor Wike did was to create a platform for Shell Petroleum Development Company and the Stakeholder Communities to reach a compromise in order to facilitate the rapid development of the oil bearing communities.
This year alone, he has facilitated the key settlement of disputes between Shell and Mgbuesilaru community and Newcross and oil bearing communities of Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas. These settlements have led to the restoration of peace and the promotion of economic development of the affected areas.
The successful resolution of the induced OML 25 crisis brings to the fore the importance of having credible and courageous leadership. Governor Wike stood on the side of truth, the people and their growth. That is why his re-opening initiative gained traction and was met with success.
At a point, the sponsors of falsehood claimed that Governor Wike must have received gratification for insisting that the right thing be done. The same persons who struggled to vilify the Rivers State Governor are now declaring that Shell Petroleum Development Company own the operating license of OML 25 as the June 22, 2019 confirmed and commenced the process its actualization.
For Governor Wike, its about the people. The ordinary folks, their leaders and the overall development of all communities of State. Whenever their interest is threatened, he comes up to defend them. This may not go down well with vocal economic/political entrepreneurs, but in the long run, the communities benefit.
THE PRO-STAKEHOLDER COMMUNITIES' INITIATIVE
By the initiative of Governor Wike,
Stakeholder Communities of Oil Mining License (OML) 25 and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) 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 M.O.U. signed between Shell and the Stakeholder Communities also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account , the sum of N1.36billion within two weeks for the development of the communities.
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.
The above act of comprehensive engagement and collective action, engineered the final re-opening of OML 25. Shell played their part as reported in the media, the communities were happy and the sponsors of the illegal closure capitulated.
Aside the direct engagement with the people and their leadership, Governor Wike carried along the political leadership of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, where OML 25 is located. From the two councillors, to the State Assembly Lawmakers, to the council Chairman through to the House of Representatives member, the Governor ensured that the participated in seeking a lasting solution for the conflict.
THE RIGHT ACKNOWLEDGMENT
On Saturday September 28, 2019, the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC and Shell Petroleum Development Company arrived Government House Port Harcourt to recognise the fundamental role that Governor Wike and the Rivers State Government played in kick-starting and sustaining the process that led to the re-opening of OML 25.
During that historic visit, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Silva made very important statements.
"The people of the Niger Delta have struggled with security and conflict for far too long. Because of that, we have lost a lot as well. We have probably gained a little, but we have lost more than we have gained ", Silva said.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari said the country lost a whopping $1.7 billion USD during the period OML 25 was shutdown.
He said, “We had a shutdown of the Belema flow station for over two years leading to the loss of over 35,000 barrels of oil per day in monitory terms that over $1.7bn which could have been put to use for the benefit of the community and the rest of the federation.
“We have engaged the communities and Shell to make sure that this dispute between them is brought to a closure, the communities have agreed to vacate the facility to allow petroleum operations to continue".
The successful re-opening of OML 25 is a victory for courageous leadership. A victory for pro-people governance. A victory for consistency in the face of oppressive and criminal propaganda. It confirms the Biblical injunction: Luke 9:62 : "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Once Governor Wike ignited the process of solution, he stayed firm for the good of the Stakeholder Communities of OML 25, the good of Rivers State and the good of Nigeria. We can all afford to smile, beat drums, dance and celebrate because a visionary leader, with character stayed firm.
THE WAY FORWARD
Having secured a peaceful resolution of the OML 25 crisis, Governor Wike has laid out a template for the successful management of the facility to the benefit of all stakeholders. The oil companies must abide by the ideals of the memoranda of understanding signed at different stages of the resolution process.
"The oil companies should also respect the Memoranda of Understanding signed with the host communities.
"As the SPDC goes in, whatever they have agreed with the communities should be implemented. If they implement it, they will do their work. If they don't implement, there will be another round of crisis. And then, they will call Government to come in.
"Ours is to make sure that people carry out their businesses in a very conducive environment. This is the role the Rivers State Government will always play".
He said that the fundamental focus of the Rivers State Government is for the OML 25 to be operational and productive. He regretted that for over two years, the Oil Facility was shutdown and nobody acted.
"I don't know the role of the security agencies in all of this. We will meet here and agree that the people should vacate the place and let Shell resume work, but the security agencies will do something else ", he said.
He noted that Rivers State is a very peaceful State where oil companies have always been supported to carry out their legitimate activities.
"We took it on ourselves to see that Shell reconciles with the communities", he said.
Governor Wike noted that during the days of pipeline vandalism, Rivers State witnessed the least cases of vandalism because of the security investment of the State Government.
"When there was this issue of vandalism of oil facilities, Rivers State Government gave the highest support to stop it. In the Niger Delta, Rivers State had the least cases of vandalism.
"I have always supported efforts to protect national assets in the state. Anybody can tell you that. I will continue to create the right environment for investment. If I don't do it, how will I get funds to execute key projects ", he said.
FACTS ARE SACRED
It took the involvement of Governor Wike for the public to know the facts of the OML 25 dispute. Otherwise, some interested elements misled the media and members of the public. Once the truth was out in the public, OML 25 was set free. The communities are now free and better development will be their portion. Those who sponsored this failed economic coup, are themselves now singing from this hymn book with the rest of Rivers State.
OML 25 IS LOCATED IN RIVERS STATE
Towards the climax of the settlement process, some anti-Rivers elements sponsored an AIT reporter to fly the kite that OML 25 is located in Bayelsa State. This falsehood was Broadcast for two days . It would have been overlooked, but this line was earlier contained in advertorials published by those under the sponsorship of those who facilitated the shutdown of the oil facility.
But the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari laid this ugly plot to rest. He declared that the team visited the Government House, Port Harcourt because OML 25 is situated in Rivers State and there was need to pay a Courtesy Visit on the Rivers State Governor.
By Simeon Nwakaudu