For some time now, Nigeria’s daily production within the Oil Mining Licence (OML) 25 and adjoining assets which have daily production output of over 35,000 barrels output suffered a setback as a result of a protracted dispute that soiled relations amongst Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Belema Oil and the host communities. OML 25 is situated within the precinct of the Kula Kingdom of Aku-ku Toru local government area of Rivers State.
While the dispute lasted, giving rise to claims and counter claims by the contending parties, the nation lost revenue accruable from the sale of that volume of oil. But it is heart-warming, in our opinion, that the unfortunate development has been amicably resolved following the combined intervention of the minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari. The crisis that harmed the production of the nation’s vital resource in that part of the oil rich state was finally laid to rest following a rapprochement brokered by the conglomerate’s helmsmen. The restoration of normalcy on that oil block offer the promise to open the way for resumption of production activities on the field soon.
Speaking at the end of the peace parley, symbolized by the signing of a dispute resolution agreement among the erstwhile feuding parties, Kyari described the event as vital in ensuring restoration of unhindered oil drilling activities, especially in the communities whose way of life was disrupted by the dispute that lasted over a period of two years.
Industry watchers who lauded the resolution of the crisis pointed out that the economic implication of the peace agreement was that production within the OML 25 and adjoining assets will resume and add value to the communities, the investors and the country at large.
This newspaper commends the role the minister played in ensuring a lasting settlement of the dispute. Being from the zone, it was easy for him to work with strategic stakeholders who rallied round to ensure that operations in the field commences as soon as possible under a conducive atmosphere devoid of needless rancour. We also observe that his mediation and that of Kyari were in tandem with the aspiration of President Muhammadu Buhari who is determined to ensure that a harmonious relationship exists between host communities and oil industry operators. Their exemplary efforts and demonstration of deep commitment in resolving the issues at stake will remain a reference point in how to manage crisis in that delicate sector of the nation’s economy .
Beyond the role of these government officials, we also recognise the collaborative efforts of the President of Belema Oil Producing Limited, Mr. Jack Rich Tein and the Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor, in bringing to a peaceful end the two-year-old dispute.
We urge Shell to do all that is possible within the limits of its operational control to avert a repeat of that debilitating situation just as we look forward to the oil major’s quick return to the oil platform ahead of planned resumption of production activities. It is also important that the terms of the peace accord are kept to and maintained so as to ensure a restoration of production which will expectedly and ultimately benefit the communities and all stakeholders.
We are satisfied that the host communities, on their part, pledged to abide by the terms of the dispute resolution agreement even as they accepted to always support any initiative designed to bring peace and development for the communities and the country. While this crisis lasted, the communities were exposed to undue harassment by security agencies.
In the meantime, we recall that the minister had, on assumption of office, as part of the mandate given to him by the president who is also the minister of Petroleum Resources, promised to ensure a zero disruption in crude oil and gas production across all assets.
In our opinion, the minister’s actions in office, so far, affirms the assertion he made that the Petroleum Ministry under his watch is resolved to settling all pending legacy issues capable of igniting loss or disruption in production. Even more important is his promise that every drop of oil produced in Nigeria must get to the desired destination to create the much needed value for all stakeholders.
We draw attention to this commitment on the part of the minister deliberately. It is commendable when viewed from the perspective of the worrisome incidences of oil theft that has continued to deny the country a maximum benefit of the revenue derivable from the important resource that is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.
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