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Production on Shell Ogoni Oil Wells Recommences

NNPC to Begin Production On Shell’s Ogoni Oil Wells

By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku Published 28 January 2011

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said Thursday that the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), its producing arm, will soon commence production from the 30 oil fields belonging to Shell Petroleum Development and Production Company (SPDC) in Ogoniland.

Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Engr. Austen Oniwon, who confirmed the development in an interview with journalists in Abuja, said the move was in line with the Corporation’s mandate to produce 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2015.

Oniwon said to achieve the set mandate, the NPDC has grown its asset base in three fold preparatory to becoming a big player in the upstream sector, while the enabling environment has been provided by the Federal Government

The SPDC was forced to abandon the prolific oil wells in 1995, following the crisis that greeted the murder of former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa.

However, in 2008, the Federal Government announced that the oil fields would be handed over to another operator acceptable by the Ogonis on grounds that there was a total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell. Government reasoned that the solution to the crisis was to allow an operator acceptable to Ogonis to take over exploration activities in the area.

The pronouncement had pitched Shell against the Federal Government, as the oil giant insisted that it would not hands off those blocks to any operator, other than a Joint Venture partner. Shell had faulted government’s decision and resisted initial plans to hand over the control of the Nigerian oil fields to Chinese oil companies.

After intense lobbying, government named the NPDC as the new operator of the oil blocks, a development, which received the commendation of Shell, which under the NPDC’s operatorship, would continue to be a shareholder in the Ogoniland operations.

The news of the NPDC’s planned commencement of exploration has elicited reactions from Ogoni people, who vowed last month to resist any such moves.

MOSOP President, Mr. Ledum Mitee, told THISDAY recently that the Federal Government was yet to contact the Ogoni people on the planned take-over, insisting that any company that would be allowed to explore oil in Ogoniland must be acceptable by the people of Ogoni.

“I have not been contacted about the plan by the NPDC to begin production, although the government was considering appointing a new operator. Our position as always is that Shell must be replaced. So it is important that government should first discuss whoever will be coming with us. I should expect government to contact us for discussion first and for us to know who is coming what the company stands for and what they are bringing to the table. We don’t want Shell or something like Shell or a company that will work for Shell,” he said.

Also, Ogoni people, under the umbrella of National Union of Ogoni Students, USA, recently cautioned Shell, NPDC and the NNPC against what it described as the danger of back door negotiations with acclaimed stakeholders, and vowed that neither Shell, NPDC nor NNPC would be allowed to operate in the area.

The students in a statement titled “Ogoni Allegations Against the Nigerian Government and Shell”, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY warned against using the security forces to terrorise the people of Ogoni in order to start oil production.

The statement read: “We also discovered that the Rivers State government, NPDC, Shell and the federal authority are making another calculated attempt to start oil production in Ogoni without meeting the demands of the people as stated in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). They planned to do this through the use of the already established security task forces (Abacha style) coupled with some help from the deceptive works of the UNEP. We strongly advise the Rivers State government to stop using the State security taskforce to terrorise the people of Ogoni in order to start oil production.

“We abhor a repeat of state and corporate sponsored violence that characterised the 1990s’ which was used by the Nigerian government as a pretext to kill prominent Ogoni leaders and over 4000 Ogoni indigenes for demanding their rights. Ogoni students viewed these secret attacks as a sponsored activity by Shell Oil and the authority to resume oil operations in Yorla Oil Fields. We shall be forced to take civil actions against Shell and all those behind these constant threats to the peace of Ogoni”.

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