By Simeon Nwakaudu
Since Austin Tam-George defected to the APC on the premise that he would receive heaven-on-earth appointment from the Former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, he has tried desperately to play to the gallery, ignoring the facts and indicators of development in Rivers State.
This morning, Mr Austin Tam-George embarked on his unfortunate game of multiple-speak. A known mercenary for hire, Tam-George went on to insult the Rivers State Governor for intervening in the OML 25 conflict wherein the APC Federal Government renewed the operating license of Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC).
Having collected money from one of the interested parties to engage in needless propaganda, Tam-George forgot very conveniently that last year, he vehemently 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.
At the time he was sponsored to attack the Rivers State Governor, the Former Information Commissioner was not aware of several efforts that the Governor made to stop that relocation. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike on that issue 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 Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State to Lagos.
To Governor Wike, 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 shutdown in 2017 by some persons who were allegedly primed by an interest group. The Rivers State Governor made no attempt to intervene since this interest group claimed that an indigenous operator had also applied for the operating license. In October 2018, the APC Federal Government through the NNPC renewed the Operating License of SPDC. This operating license 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 license 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 license from the APC Federal Government, then the State Government will fully back it.
But at present, the operating license of the SPDC has been renewed by the APC Federal Government. This renewal was not facilitated by the Rivers State Governor. All the Rivers State Governor has done is to continue to promote a conducive investment environment in Rivers State. Governor Wike 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. Tam-George should advise those who hired him to follow the approved procedures.
Is Tam-George saying that the Rivers State Government should support the forceful take over of businesses in the state? Of course, to Tam-George once the price is right, illegality should be the norm.
Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area , Mr Rowland Sekibo at the meeting convened by Governor Wike, said that Belema Oil management created the impression that they bought the OML 25 from Shell Petroleum Development Company, but the company refused to transfer the operational right. He said that a meeting with stakeholders at NNPC Abuja, it was discovered that the license of OML 25 was still under the ownership of Shell.
He said though the owner of Belema Oil is from the area, it was illegal to shutdown the oil production facility in order to arm twist the system to sell it to Belema Oil. He said such action would negatively affect other Rivers businessmen with oil operating licenses in other states.
The process initiated by the 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 are duly addressed.
Stakeholder Communities of Oil Mining License (OML) 25 and Shell Petroleum Development Company (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 M.O.U. signed between Shell and the Stakeholder Communities also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account , the sum of N1.36billion .
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 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 Shell Petroleum Development Company . This matter has been finally resolved and SPDC has paid Mgbuesilaru Community their outstanding debt .
On 13th June, 2019, Governor Wike met
with Chairmen of Cluster Developnent Boards of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema Local Government Areas , Oil Companies and Security Agencies at the 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 their 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 fail to act within the expectations of the communities, the State Government will mediate through the Steering Committee on Cluster Development Boards. That Steering Committee on Cluster Development Boards 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 being handled by the Wike Administration. It is an ongoing process. Kula, like all other communities have been accommodated by the Administration.
Hear Tam-George: “The people of Kula are right to take their destiny in their own hands. They have history and natural justice on their side”. So we have gotten this low. A so-called activist and Former Member of Rivers State Executive Council calling for self-help and violence. Imagine for a minute if all communities in Nigeria resort to self-help in the settlement of disputes involving companies operating in their localities.
Governor Wike has adopted the most civilised method…following due process. He has involved Representatives of Stakeholder Communities, security agencies and the Akuku-Toru Political Class to arrive at the solution. This is for the overall benefit of the Kula community.
As usual, Tam-George displayed criminal ignorance when he accused Governor Wike of collusion with Shell. Why has Tam-George allowed a few naira notes from an interested party derail his understanding of the facts? Is he saying that the APC Federal Government colluded with Shell in renewing their operating license? This is because it wasn’t Governor Wike that renewed the license. Tam-George is afraid of suspension or expulsion by the APC, hence he lacks the courage to blame the APC Federal Government that aided Shell ahead of the indigenous firm.
In one breadth, Tam-George would rant that Governor Wike should intervene to stop Shell from living Onne and in yet another he shouts that Governor Wike should not intervene in Kula. Our country is suffering today because of individuals like Tam-George who dance to every tune, depending on the price. 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.