Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in the oil block including NCTL for 1.7 billion dollars to Aiteo.
The Nembe communities however frowned at SPDC’s divestment and transfer of interest to Aiteo an indigenous company without factoring in the social obligations to the host communities.
They subsequently approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, to halt the renewal of the OML 29 lease which is due to lapse in June 2019 but the court urged the parties to resolve the disagreement by dialogue.
Chief Diewerio Wuku, Legal Adviser to the Opu Nembe Council of Chiefs said that the communities are open to dialogue.
According to him, the Chiefs had expected the new operators of the Nembe Creek oilfields as a Nigerian company to show examples to International Oil Companies that have dominated the scene for over 50 years.
He said that the communities were looking forward to establishing a cordial relationship with the management of Aiteo provided the oil firm was willing to discuss how to meet the development needs of the people in its operational area.
“We felt abandoned by the way Shell pulled out of the oil block and assigned its interests to the new operator, that decision affected us because the social obligations to host communities since 2015 when Shell left has been uncertain.
“As leaders, we have persuaded the youths and entire community to remain peaceful and refrain from seeking self help. It is our desire to be law abiding that made us to approach the court, and the judge recommended we dialogue.
“We have started talking with the management of Aiteo. We have met twice and we are making progress and have not reached any conclusions yet,” Wuku said.
It would be recalled that Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources had in a reaction to the suit seeking to stall the renewal of the OML 29 lease assured that the face-off with the host communities would be resolved.
Kachikwu had maintained that the litigation by the host community would neither affect oil production nor the lease renewal.