From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The leader of Conscience of Ogoni People, former Ken Saro-Wiwa Associate, Chief Gani Topba has warned Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, to stop intimidating the people of Kula community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State over the issue Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 in their land.
It would be recalled that the issue of the closure and attempted resumption of OML 25 in Belema, Kula has been in the news for weeks now, following the disagreement by the host communities, state government and Shell to reopen the Flow Station for operation.
The Ogoni Activist yesterday in a media chat in Port Harcourt faulted the action of the state government in leading the signing of Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, involving SPDC and some stakeholder in the area without allegedly involving the core host community people.
Chief Topba noted that the host communities have suffered years of intimidation and injustice, with nothing to show that Shell has operated in the land for over 40 years.
He said Ogoni people are strongly behind Kula community for their fight for justice, adding that OML 25 should be divested to indigenous oil company in the area that will understand the plight of the people for development.
He said if indigenous company should takeover operation of the flow station, it would reduce restiveness and insecurity in the area.
He said: “Today, the current situation going on in Rivers State and Niger Delta on the issues on OML 11 AND 25, mostly on OML 25 is worrisome. When you look at the trace of Ogonland, the Ogoni struggle was about the Niger Delta not just Ogoni as an ethnic group. And in the days of tribunal, Ken Saro-Wiwa clearly stated that Shell will have problem in the Niger Delta region.
“If you look at the Kula community which is a minority in the Niger Delta region like Ogoni, their environment has been destroyed, nobody has talked about that. Shell has not delivered what is supposed to do for the host communities in Kula over 40years of its operation in the land.
“If today, we call on the united nation to assess Kula kingdom, you will see that Shell has destroyed that environment. So I am using this medium to call on all supporters of Ogoni struggles all over the world and the Ogoni people that we are throwing our support behind the Kula people.
“The Rivers State government cannot take any decision on OML 11 likewise OML 25. The issue of OML 25 is before the Supreme Court to decide whether OML 25 is in Rivers State of Bayelsa state. Therefore, the governor of Bayelsa state of Rivers State lacks the constitution power to decide on that issue and issues of Oil is purely issues of the federal government. The thing that President Muhammadu Buhari has put in place in NNPC today has the capacity to resolve the issues of OML 25 and OML 11 in Ogoni.
“Let every interest party, both Shell and state government shutdown anything that will cause crisis to kill leaders of Kula. I can see that there is a target against some businessmen from Kula or others. Belema Oil has a stake in OML 25, which Chevron one of the best company in Africa handover 55 to Belema Oil and their stake in 25 also to Belema Oil. So what is wrong for Shell to divest to Belema oil and the Belema template is one of the templates that I have seen in Nigeria today.
“If community has stake in what is going on, you do not need any security to be guarding the people. I can tell if they allow the Kula people have their way, there would not be need for security personnel to guide any pipeline in Kula. I think it is important that anybody who believes in the struggle of our forefathers in Niger Delta will believe on Kula struggle.
“If Shell does not stop intimidating Kula people, we will drag them to the international court of justice. President Muhammadu Buhari has indirectly given some communities in the Niger Delta resource control by allowing indigenous companies to operate in the region, like Belema oil who was allowed to operate and given opportunity to build a terminal in Kula which will bring development to the people”, he added