Aiteo, Host Communities Face-Off: Petroleum Ministry Seeks Out Of Court Resolution

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources has intervened in the ongoing litigation by Nembe Communities, hosts to Oil Mining Lease (OML 29).

The OML, was supposed to be renewed on June 30.

A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa had on June 24 declined an application to halt the renewal of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 pending, the determination of a suit by Nembe communities in Bayelsa.

The OML 29 host communities are seeking an environmental audit of the impact of the oil field on the host communities, and the implementation of the social obligations of the host communities by the operator of the oil block amongst others.

At the resumed hearing on Friday, Counsel to the plaintiffs, M.A. Eyinda told the court that officials of Ministry of Petroleum Resources had proposed an amicable resolution of the face-off.

He explained that the Ministry had prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding for resolution of all the issues in the suit by the parties, and sought the input of the communities at a meeting scheduled for August 27 which did not hold.

However, Counsel to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr Agbade Agbade said that although he was aware of the disposition of his client for an out of court settlement, he had no update to give the court without recourse to his client.

Eyinda expressed the desire of the plaintiff to continue with their case while hoping that the settlement option proposed by the Petroleum Ministry materialises.

The lease expired on June 30, while the operator of the oilfields had commenced renewal formalities with the payment of 82 million dollars to the Department of Petroleum Resources.

Justice Awogboro Abimbola, heard four pending applications to be joined in the suit from Bayelsa communities.

Abimbola adjourned the case until Oct. 12 for ruling on the pending application to be joined.

The judge also fixed Oct. 18 for continuation of hearing on the substantive suit.

Some 40 chiefs from Nembe communities seeking to join the suit besieged the court premises and filled the courtroom to the brim.

The plaintiffs are: Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B.C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 host communities.

The defendants are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

Others are Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd, Attorney-General of Bayelsa and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa Ministry of Lands.

NAN reports that Shell Petroleum Development Company 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.

However, the host community, said the divestment was done “without resolving the untold negative impact of their operations on the people”