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Anniversary Special

No Sacred Cow …As Gov Amaechi Tackles Urban Renewal With A Political Will As Strong As Steel

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In December 2007, few months after Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi assumed office as the governor of Rivers State, he created the state Ministry of Urban Development and saddled it with the responsibility of physical planning and development control of the state.

The decision of the governor was born out of the desire to change the face of the city of Port Harcourt and other urban cities in Rivers State, a vision he began midwifing through the enactment of a law in 2003, then as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The law known as Rivers State Physical Planning and Development Law, 2003 first abrogated all existing laws on physical planning, development control in the state and gave the urban renewal responsibility to the state government through the Ministry of Urban Development which hitherto existed as the department of Urban Development in the then Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

The intention of government was to pull down all illegal structures and shanties that blocked the right of ways and return the city to its original features that earned it the name “garden city”

Port Harcourt City acquired the name “Garden City” from inception because the geographical boundaries including the old Port Harcourt, Diobu, Ogbunabali, GRA Phase 1 to 8 and Amadi Flat were all properly planned and their development control by the government.

“Over time, the inability of government to muster the political will to embark upon this exercise caused the inhabitants of the state to carry out development without control. So we looked at it and said one of the first things to do is to clean up the city of the illegal structures,” Mr. Osina Ginah, pioneer commissioner of the Ministry told newsmen.

In implementing the demolition policy, the state government established fence lines and declared any property developed outside the fence lines as illegal structures.

“But we also have situations where government because of favouritism aided some persons to build where they are not supposed to build. Some areas that are sanitary lanes, government has given Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for people to build. And the law says once a structure is declared illegal, you demolish without payment of compensation,” Mr. Ginah said.

The plan of the city describes fence lines as a measurement of between 3 to 5 metres or 10 metres away from the edge of the road or from the centre of the road depending on the approved plan while sanitary lines are the drainage and water ways.

The government has so far carried out demolition of illegal structures in areas including Borokiri, Town, Diobu, Aba-Road GRA 2 and 3, and D/Line axis of Port Harcourt city while other areas have been marked for owners to remove structures marked illegal. In all these the government has denied that it carried out indiscriminate demolition in some places.

“We did not carry out indiscriminate demolition of homes or fences. When we started, we first mapped out Borokiri and Town axis. We took it from one point to the other. We phased it. So as we are through with one phase, we moved to the next. So you can determine where next we are going because we tell you. We did not just jump into the streets, we took our time and enlightened the public of this law and what we intend to do and what we think are illegal structures because we take time to define,” the commissioner said.

However, Mr. Ginah agrees that the law is not without its flaws. “I looked at the law. Take for instance one of the amendments that are very apparent is that the law makes a provision for the setting up of a board to take care of the development and physical planning and development control.  This law is obsolete because we now have a ministry charged with that responsibility.

His Excellency is the visioner, he saw the vision and he believes that he needs something much more than that and he wanted a ministry that he can hold responsible in driving that vision and he created a Ministry of Urban Development. And the law provides that at the time they made the law, we had what is called the Land Bureau, Land an Survey Bureau.

Now we don’t have Land Survey Bureau because that was part of Ministry of Land and Survey. So for you to set up that board, the Special Adviser for Land and Survey will recommend the members of that board for His Excellency to appoint. The question is, how will the governor cross over that hurdle to appoint and constitute the board because there is no Special Adviser for Land and Housing. And so the Law has to be amended and the power to recommend members of the board given to the commissioner,” he explained.

Another amendment is that the law provides that it gives seven days to owners of illegal structures and at the expiration of the seven days, if the owner of the structure fails to remove it the government demolishes it and the law went further to say if the government demolishes, the owner pays for the cost of demolition.

“So we studied the law and found out that there is law and there is equity. So what we are applying is the equitable principles. We have never asked anybody who owns an illegal structure that we demolished to pay the cost of demolition because the government spends huge sum of money for demolition in hiring equipment and security for demolition of the illegal structures.

The law says pay for demolition but the law did not spell out how much you have to pay. Now who determines how much that should be paid? Another aspect is, is that seven days enough? Say for somebody to remove a storey building will seven days be enough?

Even if the seven days were enough, you may not have the resources to pay for the demolition and if government demolishes, while you have lost the property, you are in pains, you don’t even have the money and government is saying pay for the demolition. The law did not say what should happen to you if you don’t have the money to pay government for the demolition.”

In driving the urban renewal effort to success, Rt. Hon. Amaechi has taken a paradigm shift from applying favouritism and nepotism that characterized government policies in the past.” In this case the government has not interfered with our functions. From day one we started this assignment till today, the government has not interfered. He only told us, be in charge provided you are following the law and be fair to all concerned.

The government has also ensured that cases where past governments gave Certificate of Occupancy for people to build where they were not supposed to build; the administration has ensured payment of compensation to owners of such properties before they are demolished. “Take for instance, a property in GRA, in Bishop Dimeari Street. There is one hotel in that area. In the course of our urban renewal we saw in the mater plan of GRA that that place is supposed to be a link road, but the owner has a C of O during the Musa Shehu era.

We demolished the entire hotel, three storey one side and one storey building and a duplex on the other side and we paid compensation because he has a C of O. In the present government, we have learnt the lesson that we cannot use privileged position to do what we are not supposed to do because nemesis one day could catch up with us,” Mr. Ginah said, adding that government has already spent close to N4 billion on payment of compensation.

The compensation payment covers demolition carried out at Ada-George road by Rumuolumeni junction, Old cultural Centre, Town axis among others which fall under government’s development control programme and the demolition of the Njemanze Waterfront which falls under its urban renewal programme.

The execution of the demanding task of development control and urban renewal has not come thus far without meeting resistance from the people. Recently, at the Bundu Waterfront, government security forces were engaged in a fierce exchange of gunfire by some armed residents of the area who tried to resist government enumerators.

The gun battle was reported to have claimed some lives and left several others injured. Also, there are a number of  court cases pending before the Port Harcourt courts challenging the implementation of the urban renewal policy of the state government. “We have cases but we have never disobeyed one court order,” says Osima Ginah.

One thing is certain, in all the issues of development, Governor Amaechi had called a meeting of stakeholders who reviewed the idea, considered it, made suggestions and gave approval for its execution, “In the case of the waterfronts, and even the issue of the development control of Port Harcourt, the Governor called stakeholders meeting of Rivers State and the people of Rivers State gave him the mandate to implement the policy. And we agreed to start from Njemanze. And I called the people of Njemanze, the landlords; in fact it is an organised community and so they came with their leader and we started in August 2008. We finished in August 2009, one year.

If we were not consulting, he gave me assignment on August, I should have finished because I have the security with me. But we didn’t do that so we consulted. We called them and they gave the mandate on their own they need compensation and the stakeholders of Rivers State said yes,” he explained.

Equally challenging in this vision of reinstalling Port Harcourt city to its past glory is the interpretation from some quarters of ethnic coloration in the entire exercise. Some persons and groups have expressed fear that the action of government would subjugate the interest of some ethnic groups in the state.

But the commissioner for Urban Development insists that what the government is doing has no ethnic agenda,” I say it and the governor has said it several times that it is open to all Rivers people. Now what the government is doing is not an Ikwerre agenda after all the governor has said it that Ikwerre people who have taken over government land, take for instance, “Eagle Island.” We will demolish all the structures there. We will move into Elekahia Stadium. All government land taken over by the Ikwerre people will be recovered,” he said.

 

Amieyeofori Ibim

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Anniversary Special

‘We’ll Continue To Advance Rivers Interests’

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Being The Text Of A State Broadcast By His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, To The People Of Rivers State On Monday, 30th September, 2019.
My dear people of Rivers State On the 9th of September 2019 we kick-started the celebration of the 100 days of our second term in office and for three weeks we carried out the daily inauguration of completed projects as the main thrust of the celebration.
The projects we inaugurated, which ranged from strategic road infrastructure, markets and a football academy to senior civil servants’ quarters and secretariat buildings for Labour and Student Unions, are testaments to our resolve to effectively utilize available resources to advance the socio-economic progress of our State and improve the wellbeing of our people.
It is still early morning in our second tenure and we have demonstrated that, for us, there would be no lull in the administration of our renewed political mandate. Rather, we will increase the tempo of deliverables, fulfil our promises and bequeath a much better State.
We are happy to note that the soundness of our policies and governance have enabled us to grow the State’s economy, deliver so much on infrastructure and improve the general wellbeing of our people under a difficult national economic climate.
We wish to also state that we are sensitive to the agitation of our people for political and economic freedom and we shall continue to respond appropriately to the challenges of development either alone or in conjunction with our partners to advance our abiding interest in building the brightest possible future for our State and for all our people.
It is for this sense of collective purpose that I am delighted to inform you that the Rivers State Government has fully acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) 45% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 situated in Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area and the adjoining Ogoni and other communities of Rivers State.
BACKGROUND FACTS
The background of incidents and processes that culminated into this salutary development are as follows:
Following a major oil spill from SPDC Trans Niger High Pressure Crude Oil Pipeline at Ejama Community, an approximate area of 255 hectares of arable agricultural land, fishing swamps and rivers were devastated.
SPDC admitted that the oil spill came from their pipeline and occurred sometime in 1970. They paid some compensation to the community in the sum of N300,000.00 sometime in 1986 and promised to come and de-pollute the area.
SPDC failed to de-pollute the area which gave rise to a lawsuit in 1991 commenced at the High Court of Rivers State, Nchia Division presided over by Hon Justice P.N.C. Agumagu (now retired). At the end of the trial, the Court found against SPDC and entered judgment in the sum of N1 billion in addition to and order for SPDC to clean up the spill or pay N6 billion in lieu thereof.
SPDC appealed the judgement. During the pendency of the appeal, the jurisdiction of the State High Court was taken away and donated to the Federal High Court by a subsequent judgment of the Supreme Court. The Ejama-Ebubu Community conceded SPDC’s appeal without a formal hearing.
The community commenced a fresh suit in 2001 at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, this time against SPDC and its parent companies – SHELL of Netherlands and SHELL of United Kingdom.
This fresh case commenced in 2001 passed through four different justices of that Court arising from twists and turns associated with opposed litigations, until it was disposed of about 10 years after in June 2010 by Buba J. (the fifth judge to preside over the matter).
SPDC and its parent companies appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal in 2010, which again suffered the twists and turns passing through six different panels comprising three justices each between 2010 and 2017 before it was finally disposed of by the panel of that Court led by Gumel JCA of the Port Harcourt Division. The appeal was dismissed.
SPDC and its parent companies took out a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2017, which appeal was considered and dismissed by that Court in a judgment read by Hon. Justice B. Akaahs, JSC delivering a lead judgment in a unanimous decision.
After losing at the High Court, SPDC gave the successful Ejama-Ebubu Plaintiffs a Bond Guarantee stipulating that First Bank of Nigerian Limited would pay them the value of the Judgment debt and interests thereon in the event that SPDC’s appeal to the Court of Appeal fails at that Court. The original Bank Guarantee is still with the Community.
When SPDC’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal, Shell instructed the Bank to dishonour their guarantee, which did and gave rise to a series of six different litigations in various Courts against First Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria. SPDC’s excuse was that they had lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The enforcement cases had been to Owerri, Abuja, Lagos, etc. in six different lawsuits.
On the 11th of January, 2019, Shell’s appeal was dismissed at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The judgments of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were registered in the United Kingdom for enforcement over there against SPDC parent companies domiciled outside Nigeria’s shores.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT IN NIGERIA
(i) The Ejama-Ebubu community commenced enforcement by domiciling the judgment in the State High Court and levying execution on SPDC movables in their Industrial Area in Port Harcourt;
(ii) Those chattels were attached on the ground but not removed;
(iii) SPDC invited the community and offered them N7 billion as against the judgment debt of N194 billion, which the community refused to accept;
(iv) The community approached the court for and order granting them leave to sell SPDC’s immovable property comprised in OML 11 and their kidney Island support base in Port Harcourt.
Upon the advertisement of the said immovable assets for auction, the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Rivers State alerted the Government of the State.
RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO BUY
I have given due consideration of the following factors from information made available to me:
(i) That this oil spill impacted the Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State from the activities of SPDC;
(ii) That the impact is still there and un-remedied since 1970 as admitted by SPDC vide letters they wrote seeking to clean the spill in 2006 while the case was at the trial Court;
(iii) That the Rivers State has suffered the worst impact of environmental degradation resulting from oil related operations;
(iv) That the very difficult swamp and mischievous waterlogged terrain of the Rivers State has impeded development as a result of increased construction costs on the near and non-existent infrastructures and attendant rapid decay of the little we have been able to achieve as a result of oil related acid rain and black sooth enveloping the State;
(v) That these phenomenal degradation and impoverishment had continued with the decline of revenue and inflation, lack of employment of well-educated Rivers State youths, idleness and restiveness arising from want;
(vi) That SPDC is said to have paid the sum of USD 2,000,000 (two million United States Dollars) only for the renewal of their operatorship and interest in the said OML 11 to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources;
(vii) That for the past 25 years, the rich oil potentials of OML 11 have remained untapped following the hanging of the world-renown Ogoni poet and environmental activist, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 as well as the unfortunate mob lynching and death of four prominent Ogoni citizens, one of whom was the Secretary of Government of the Rivers State and another, a Commissioner under the tenure of Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo as Governor of Rivers State;
(viii) That it has become unlikely that for peace and security, the people of Ogoni in the Rivers Stat will welcome SPDC on their land forming part of OML 11;
(ix) That a lot of revenue is lost to the Federation Account accruable to the 55% stake of the Federal Government in OML 11 and by extension the rest of the Federating States of Nigeria due to non-production of nearly 250,000 barrels per day of its crude oil potentials equalling one sixth of the country’s total out-put per day;
(x) That the Rivers State Government has continued to loose 13% derivation fund from the said 55% stake of the Federal Government in that field for nearly 30 years now, which revenue would have transformed the State and its peoples for the better;
(xi) That rather than standby and watch other persons or group purchaser SPDC 45% interest in that OML 11 and further exacerbate the poverty of the people of the State, a responsible and responsive State Government should weigh in and bid for the purchase of SPDC interest already set down for auction;
(xii) That the present Government of Rivers State entrusted in my care through the Will of God and those of the peoples of the Rivers State have concluded that it will be in the overall interest of the State, the other Federating States and the Federal Government that we as a Government, should make a bid for the purchase of the said interest of SPDC now placed on auction by extant Order of the Courts of Law.
Therefore, I directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporated to make a bid of USD 150,000,0900.00 supported by a Bank Guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1 billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors while the former is escrowed.
I have further directed the relevant Government agencies to take immediate steps to liaise with any financially capable companies to partner with the Rivers State Government to ensure that the said oil field come on stream within 15 months from today.
In line with our commitment to accelerated development, industrial harmony and security, the Rivers State Government will graciously concede some portion of its 45% per cent equity interest to all the oil producing communities within OML 11 to enhance mutual ownership, participation and sharing in the benefits of these resources.
I have taken these steps with all sense of responsibility believing that addressing the pains and poverty of our peoples with the resultant security and welfare of its people is the main purpose of governance and nothing less.
Without any doubt, this is a profound economic investment with profound and enduring positive implications on peace, security, development and prosperity for the oil-bearing communities of OML 11, the entire Rivers State and our country.
I have attached a Certified True Copy of the Judicial Certificate of Purchase of Land/Immovable property dated 25 September, 2019 issued by the High Court of Rivers State under Order VII Rule 9 of High Court Rivers in reference to Suit No: PCH/1696/2019 between Government of Rivers State of Nigeria vs. Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 5 Ors and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. & 2 Ors.
Thank you and may God continue to bless and prosper Rivers State.

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Anniversary Special

Nigerian Entertainment @59 …So Far, So Good

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Kudos and more rewarding years ahead to the good people of Nigeria as  the country marks 59 years of independence and freedom from domination by the British colonial over lords. In the past 59 eventful years the entertainment industry had remained a dependable partner in the nation’s quest for economic rejuvenation, as the industry accounted for over 1.4 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) in 2013 and the figure is fast growing.

Apart from generating income for the country, the entertainment sector also provides employment to the teaming population of Nigerians as well as show cases the cultural heritage of the country and also rebranding of the nation’s image abroad. The unprecedented growth of the industry from obscurity to international limelight is evident in the achievements of stake holders in the various organs of entertainment vis-a-viz, movie, music, comedy, tourism and hospitality.

Movie: From the 1957 ‘Fincho’, 1980 ‘Kadara’, 1992 Living in Bondage, 2012 Keeping Faith to the 2014 October 1, the Nigerian film industry has come a very long way as it had witnessed the good, the bad and the urgly, but has continued to thrive in the face of the daunting challenges.

In 1957 ‘Fincho’ became the first Nigerian film to be shot in clolour following Nigeria’s independence in October 1, 1960. In 1972 the independence Decree of General Yakubu Gowon’s regime made possible the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinemas from their foreign owners to Nigerians, resulting in more Nigerians actively participating in Nigeria’s film growth.

In 1992, the release of the classic movie “Living in Bondage’ Kicked off a new era in the Nigerian film industry. This era produced movies that are still referred to as classics. It produced actors that were and still household names in Nigeria.

In the mid 2000s the home video experienced a major deadline with factors such as piracy and film rental shops playing a major role. In 2004 a new cinema era began with the launch of series of modern cinema houses by silver bird group. The new wave film to be shown at a modern cinema was Kunle Afolayan’s 2006’ Irapada’ which screened at the silver bird galleria.

Ever since then, high and small budget movies like ‘Ije’, surulere’, the Figurinel. The CEO, 90 days, Half of a yellow Sun, The Meeting, October 1 and the Arbitrator have been screened at different cinemas in Nigeria. With the launch of silver bird cinemas, other cinema houses like Ozone, filmhouse and Genesis Deluxe were also launched and are playing important roles in the evolution of the Nigerian film industry.

The Nigerian film industry has become more profitable with movie like the wedding party grossing over 405 million naira in just two months and ‘A Trip to Jamaica “earning a Guinness book of world record spot for its box office success. The industry has also created quality TV series such as ‘Hush’, ‘Sons Of Caliphate’ and ‘The Governor’ among others.

Over the years, the web platform like iroko TV, Ibaka TV and cix TV provide paid for Nigerian films on demand at affordable charges pay TV entertainment platforms like Africa magic have also invested in the Nigerian film industry creating shows and empowering the youths.

The Nigerian film industry has established itself as a major cultural and socio economic force in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry revenue witnessed a 25.5 percent growth. This amounted to $3.8 billion with $605 million of the estimated $764 million rise said to be attributed to internet access, according to a recent report.

Music: The development of modern music and dance had their origin and foundation in the traditions of various communities in Nigeria. Who are known to have their own music and dance forms which they use in entertaining themselves and important quests. Every event attracts its own form of music in the traditional setting.

The Nigerian music industry is proud to storm the world stage by identifying its relevance and essence. The music fact of entertainment has waxed relatively strong, expanding year after year, turning in billions of naira  to the economy. There is no gainsaying the fact that music is part of our everyday life and more or less an integral part of visual and audio media productions including sound tracks in both local and foreign movies.

With an apparently inexhaustible stream talents and capacity to innovate, the Nigerian music industry is one that can neither be hindered by economic depression nor lack of relevance.

The industry has the necessary resources to rule the airwaves of not only Nigeria, but also the length and breath of Africa and the world at large. It is note worthy that the number of stakeholders in Nigerian music business is ever increasing, they include the musicians, producers, promoters, manager distributors and marketers.

In the past six years, the growing number of new production studios and artistes springing up has paved way for a more vibrant and self sustaining industry. A lot of Nigerian artistes are already enjoying corporate sponsorship for their unique talents and achievements some have recorded land mark album sales sometimes running into hundreds of thousand copies.

Others have won prestigious awards in international contests and events hence attracting more and more investments from very many sources. The investments have no doubt aided production of world class quality music as a result of innovations in sounds, rhythms and recording techniques.

Nigerian musicians have developed a vast spectrum of music genres blending hip hop, rap, rhythm and blues reggae gospel etc with traditional Nigerian beats and instruments. Some of the popular names include 2face idibia, P-Square, Davido, Timaya, Tiwa savage, Wiziki, D’banj, Don Jazzy, M.I., Bracket and Olamide others are KCee, Asa, Skales Mc Galaxy, Yemi Alade, patoranking, Tekno, Phyno, Flavour etc

A good number of them have also made name in gospel music such as Chris Morgan, Frank Edward, Panam Percy Paul, Yinka Ayefele and Sinach among others.

STAND UP COMMEDY: Stand up comedians have come to compete in Nigeria’s entertainment landscape, they distill humour and jokes inspired by everyday life experience of Nigerians to a wide variety of audience through direct stage shows or recorded VCD/DVD in English or Nigerian pidgin.

Among the most popular of these highly talented comedians are ‘1 go dye’, Bovi, Seyi Law Lepacious Bose, Funny Bone, Klint d’ drunk, Basket mouth, Helen Panel, Chi Girl etc.

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY:- Some of the diverse cultural features of the country are the manifestations of the socio cultural differences of the over 250 ethnic groups that have inhabited the land for ages. Some of the cultural events with tourism potentials which have attracted several international recognitions and revenue to the country, some of these tourists events include the Grand Dubar festival, the famous Arugungu fishing festival (Ondo State), Olojo festival (Ile Ife), the Oshun festival (Oshogbo), Atilogu dances and the new yam festivals from the east as well as the Abuja, calabar and Rivers State carnivals among others.

The natural tourist sites include Sukur landscape (Adamawa State) Zuma Rock (Niger State), Olumo Rock (Abeokuta), Kuru falls in Jos, Shere hills (Jos), Abokin Waterfalls, Gurara waterfalls, Erin Ijesha water falls, Mambulla plateau (Taraba State).

Idanre and Oka hills Ondo State, others are Obudu cattle ranch, Oguta Lake Imo State, Ikogosi Springs Ekiti State, Lekki Beach Lagos, Mayegum Beach Lagos and the whispering Palm resort Lagos as well as other tourists destinations across the country.

In hospitality Nigeria parades world class hotels and other outlets located in different parts of the country which ranges from first, second and third classes according to international standard and specification. The sector is regulated by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

Hotels serve as avenue for revemae generation to the economy and support for the entertainment industry by providing opportunity and platform for music and movie stars to do stage performance and lodging. Some of the top hotels in the country are transcop hotel Abuja, Eko hotel and seraton hotels lagos, Ham dala hotel, hotel presidential, Enugu and Rivers States, premiere hotel Ibadan etc.

The Nigerian entertainment clan over the past 59 years has evolved and still gaining more grounds in the global entertainment anclave, we can beat our chest and say ‘so far so good’ as the beat goes on.

 

Jacob Obinna

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Anniversary Special

OML 25: Gov Wike’s Pro-People Leadership Pays Off

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Imagine for a split second if Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, was one of those docile, inconsiderate and anti-people leaders, Oil Mining License (OML) 25 would still be shutdown.  If Governor Wike was one of the leaders that could be intimidated by lies, negative propaganda and false paid advertorials/radio programmes, the nation’s economy would still be bleeding endlessly from lost revenue.
Thank God Wike “get morale”. He has the staying power and courage to withstand the enemies of Rivers State and Nigeria.  He is a man of vision with the capacity to ensure the state’s goals are achieved.
It was on June 22, 2019 that Governor Wike set the ball rolling for the re-opening of OML 25. Before this historic date,   NNPC, the Federal Government and the security agencies made no attempt to re-open the facility.  Till date, no explanation has been given for this inaction.
From June 22, 2019, Governor Wike set in motion all the platforms for negotiation, public discourse, social and economic engagements on the re-opening of OML 25. This was the first courageous move to empower all stakeholders for the good of the country.
The meeting in question had in attendance Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the host communities of OML 25, security agencies and Belema Oil.  This meeting laid out the template for the resolution of outstanding grievances.
On June 27, 2019, stakeholder communities of OML 25 in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State and SPDC agreed  on the procedures  for the re-opening  of the oil facility during a meeting facilitated by Governor Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the modalities for the release of intervention funds were agreed upon.
After these meetings, several engagements for the re-opening of the facility continued, despite the sponsored attacks on the person of Governor Wike. All Governor Wike did was to create a platform for SPDC and the stakeholder communities to reach a compromise in order to facilitate the rapid development of the oil-bearing communities.
This year alone, he has facilitated the key settlement of disputes between Shell and Mgbuesilaru community and Newcross and oil-bearing communities of Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas.  These settlements have led to the restoration of peace and the promotion of economic development of the affected areas.
The successful resolution of the induced OML 25 crisis brings to the fore the importance of having credible and courageous leadership.  Governor Wike stood on the side of truth, the people and their growth. That is why his re-opening initiative gained traction and was met with success.
At a point, the sponsors of falsehood claimed that Governor Wike must have received gratification for insisting that the right thing be done. The same persons who struggled to vilify the Rivers State Governor are now declaring that SPDC owns the operating license of OML 25 as the June 22, 2019 confirmed and commenced the process of its actualisation.
For Governor Wike, it’s about the people; the ordinary folks, their leaders and the overall development of all communities of the state. Whenever their interest is threatened, he comes up to defend them. This may not go down well with vocal economic/political entrepreneurs, but in the long run, the communities benefit.
The Pro-stakeholder Communities’ Initiative
By the initiative of Governor Wike, stakeholder communities of OML 25 and SPDC 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 N1.36 billion within two weeks for the development of the communities.
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.
The above act of comprehensive engagement and collective action, engineered the final re-opening of OML 25. Shell played their part as reported in the media, the communities were happy and the sponsors of the illegal closure capitulated.
Aside the direct engagement with the people and their leadership, Governor Wike carried along the political leadership of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, where OML 25 is located. From the two councillors, to the State Assembly lawmakers, to the council Chairman through to the House of Representatives member, the Governor ensured that they participated in seeking a lasting solution for the conflict.
The Right Acknowled-gement
On Saturday, September 28, 2019, the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC and SPDC arrived Government House, Port Harcourt to recognise the fundamental role that Governor Wike and the Rivers State Government played in kick-starting and sustaining the process that led to the re-opening of OML 25.
During that historic visit, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Silva, made very important statements.
“The people of the Niger Delta have struggled with security and conflict for far too long.  Because of that, we have lost a lot as well.  We have probably gained a little, but we have lost more than we have gained “, Silva said.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, said the country lost a whopping $1.7 billion during the period OML 25 was shutdown.
He said, “We had a shutdown of the Belema flow station for over two years leading to the loss of over 35,000 barrels of oil per day; in monetary terms that is over $1.7 billion which could have been put to use for the benefit of the community and the rest of the federation.
“We have engaged the communities and Shell to make sure that this dispute between them is brought to a closure, the communities have agreed to vacate the facility to allow petroleum operations to continue”.
The successful re-opening of OML 25 is a victory for courageous leadership.  A victory for pro-people governance.  A victory for consistency in the face of oppressive and criminal propaganda.  It confirms the Biblical injunction: Luke 9:62 :  “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Once Governor Wike ignited the process of solution, he stayed firm for the good of the stakeholder communities of OML 25, the good of Rivers State and the good of Nigeria.  We can all afford to smile, beat drums, dance and celebrate because a visionary leader with character stayed firm.
The Way Forward
Having secured a peaceful resolution of the OML 25 crisis, Governor Wike has laid out a template for the successful management of the facility to the benefit of all stakeholders.  The oil companies must abide by the ideals of the memoranda of understanding signed at different stages of the resolution process.
“The oil companies should also respect the Memoranda of Understanding signed with the host communities.
“As the SPDC goes in, whatever they have agreed with the communities should be implemented.  If they implement it, they will do their work.  If they don’t implement, there will be another round of crisis. And then, they will call government to come in.
“Ours is to make sure that people carry out their businesses in a very conducive environment.  This is the role the Rivers State Government will always play”.
He said that the fundamental focus of the Rivers State Government is for the OML 25 to be operational and productive. He regretted that for over two years, the oil facility was shutdown and nobody acted.
“I don’t know the role of the security agencies in all of this.  We will meet here and agree that the people should vacate the place and let Shell resume work, but the security agencies will do something else “, he said.
He noted that Rivers State is a very peaceful State where oil companies have always been supported to carry out their legitimate activities.
“We took it on ourselves to see that Shell reconciles with the communities”, he said.
Governor Wike noted that during the days of pipeline vandalism, Rivers State witnessed the least cases of vandalism because of the security investment of the State Government.
“When there was this issue of vandalism of oil facilities, Rivers State Government gave the highest support to stop it. In the Niger Delta, Rivers State had the least cases of vandalism.
“I have always supported efforts to protect national assets in the state. Anybody can tell you that.  I will continue to create the right environment for investment.  If I don’t do it, how will I get funds to execute key projects “, he said.
Facts Are Sacred
It took the involvement of Governor Wike for the public to know the facts of the OML 25 dispute.  Otherwise, some interested elements misled the media and members of the public.  Once the truth was out in the public, OML 25 was set free. The communities are now free and better development will be their portion. Those who sponsored this failed economic coup are themselves now singing from this hymn book with the rest of Rivers State.
OML 25 Is Located In Rivers State
Towards the climax of the settlement process, some anti-Rivers elements sponsored an AIT reporter to fly the kite that OML 25 is located in Bayelsa State.  This falsehood was broadcast for two days. It would have been overlooked, but this line was earlier contained in advertorials published by persons under the sponsorship of those who facilitated the shutdown of the oil facility.
But the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, laid this ugly plot to rest. He declared that the team visited the Government House, Port Harcourt because OML 25 is situated in Rivers State and there was need  to pay a courtesy visit on the Rivers State Governor.
·Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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