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OML 25: Why Buhari Apologised to Host Communities

-By Gideon Osaka

President Muhammad Buhari’s apology to Belema and Offion Ama, in Akuku Toru local government area of Rivers State, host communities of the contentious oil mining lease, OML 25, may have come to many Nigerians as a surprise.

Prior to that, Buhari had since assumption of office in 2015, maintained a no-nonsense position with militants and host communities who had suffered pipeline vandalism and the resultant oil spillage. He had instructed the military to deal ruthlessly with people associated with vandalism, just as he put in place mechanisms to carry out remediation of the spillage – damaged Ogoni environment as requested by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP report.

Giving an insight into Buhari’s apology, a Director of an indigenous oil company, who chose to be anonymous, stated that the President may have been given the true picture of the situation and so decided to tow the path of peace so as to encourage more oil production output, which is beneficial to the economy. “We all know that the 2020 budget needs to be funded adequately. More oil production means more money for the government to carry out its numerous responsibilities to the citizenry. The President knows that a peaceful environment is better than a volatile one. He therefore showed statesmanship by apologising to the communities. This will no doubt go a long way in ensuring peace and harmony in the host communities,” he said.

President Buhari had promised the host communities of OML 25 better days ahead, stating that they would no longer suffer neglect and deprivations the way they did for more than 40 years of oil extraction from their land. The President, who was represented by Sen. Senator Ita Enang, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, spoke during the reopening of OML 25 assets. The reopening of the oil assets followed peaceful resolution of the protracted conflict between the host communities and the assets operator, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, which left the OML 25 occupied and shut down by the host communities since August 2017. The event also witnessed the groundbreaking for 1.5million litres potable water and 12 kilometre treated water reticulation project for Oko-Ama and Belema by the Hon. Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timepre Sylva supported by the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari. Buhari explained that henceforth, serious development initiatives would take place in the host communities of OML 25 through partnerships with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and the Amnesty office. Buhari said: “We’ve been to the communities. I felt touched that they are asking for a school, hospitals in 2019 after 40 years of oil and gas being taken from their soils. I scooped the water from pond which you people drink. It is smeared with oil. “On behalf of the nation, I apologise to you. We will change for the better for you, for us all as a nation. We will not only build schools, hospitals for you, we will provide complete amenities for you. “Working with state government, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty, Ministry of Niger Delta Affair, we will ask to know what they are doing.

“Now that I have seen what you go through, we are going to take this message to the NASS, to redirect the budget to know what they are providing for you.” He commended the host communities for their peaceful disposition and for vacating assets at the OML25 Platform and Flow station where hundreds of community protesters, had occupied and shutdown since August 2017. He said: “The whole struggle has come to conclusion. We thank you for your peaceful disposition through the struggle.

We can now vacate peacefully and allow work to continue, as the issues are being addressed. You are aware that some immediate demands have already been met.” Lifting up the hand of Jackrich Jr, Enang also told the host communi-ties, “Every community who has sons as Jackrick who care this much for his people should take care of him and pray for him to remain safe, healthy and blessed to continue to move your communities forwards.” Also speaking, Belema monarch, King Boudilion Ekiye Okor, Amayanabo of Belema, told the President that the OML 25 host communities insisted on active responsibilities for Belema Oil before the conflict in the communities was resolved because Tein Jackrich Jr, owner of Belema Oil is son of the soil and has made the difference with OML 55. He said, “Today, I am the happiest man in Belema. BelemaOil, owned by our son is now in charge of maintaining operations. Now we know who to hold responsible if we are disappointed. If he (Jackrich) fails us, we go to his mother and father’s house to complain, but he has given us so much confidence that we know he can’t fail.

“He has proven with OML 55 which he took from Chevron that he can make the difference. The water project he provided at Kula is world-class. Today, our sons and daughters can attend the best schools in the world because Tein Jackrich believes in genuine development of the host communities. “Our passionate appeal to President Buhari, NAPIMS and NNPC is that when Shell wants to divest from OML25, they must concede same to BelemaOil to take full control.

Today, my people’s occupation of OML25 has ended. We will remove our things there and production can now start.” In his remarks, the chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin K. Clark, thanked stakeholders for the peaceful resolution. Clark, who was represented by his Vice Chairman, Godknows Igali, lauded the Federal Government, host communities, BelemaOil, NNPC and the Petroleum Ministry under k Sylva.