Panel meets over protesting Delta communities' demands

Panel meets over protesting Delta communities’ demands

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A tripartite panel made up of selected representatives of Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Chevron Nigeria Ltd (CNL) and protesting Ugborodo, Deghele and Ugboegungun communities of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State have met over the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA)

Our correspondent had reported that the protesting host communities were requesting the registration and recognition of Otumara Host Community Development Trust for the joint implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) by SPDC, CNL, and NUPRC as enshrined in the Act.

Unattended after the 48-hour ultimatum given to SPDC to meet with them or risk the shutdown of its operations, officials of NUPRC hurriedly intervened on Thursday and Friday and summoned the actors to a meeting in Abuja.

The tripartite meeting was held at the NUPRC headquarters in Abuja on August 31 and September 1, where the representatives of NUPRC, SPDC, and the protesting communities of Ugborodo, Deghele, and Ugboegungun communities met to thrash out the burning issue.

On the side of SPDC were Dr. (Mrs.) Alice Ajeh (Project Manager of the PIA) and Mr Odiri Iyaro (Corporate Relations Manager), while the eight-man delegation of the three communities was Chief Ayiri Emami, Prince Michael Diden (Ejele), Mr Mode Akoma, Mr Smart Edoema, Prince Perry Atete, Mr Isaac Botosan, Prince Yemi Emiko, and Alex Eyengho.

On the side of the NUPRC were Engr. Gbenga Komolafe (the Executive Director/CEO), Mallam Sanusi Lamido (Chairman of the NUPRC Panel), and Chief Benjamin Ogunjobi (Zonal Head, Warri), among others.

Speaking on the issue as the PIA regulatory body, the NUPRC boss, Engr. Komolafe reportedly reiterated the commitment to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law.

“The decision of the commission, as the only regulatory body for the implementation of the PIA, shall be strictly based on the extant laws, which are the PIA and the accompanying Regulations under the PIA,” he noted.

He then assured participants, after hearing from all parties, that the “Commission shall make its verdict public before the close of work on Tuesday, September 5, 2023,” adding that “Any party not satisfied thereafter is free to approach the court of law.”

Part of the requests of the representatives of the three host communities in line with the PIA’s provisions included the registration and recognition of Host Community Development Trusts (HCDTs), which are Otumara Host Communities Development Trust (Otumara-HCDT) for Ugborodo, Deghele, and Ugboegungun communities; Ikpere Host Community Development Trust (Ikpere-HCDT) for Ode-Ugborodo, Ogidigben, Ajudaibo, and Madangho; and Saghara Host Communities Development Trust (Saghara-HCDT) for Ugborodo and Ugboegungun communities.

It was, however, gathered that CNL and SPDC’s representatives gave the reasons they have been recalcitrant in meeting with the host communities despite several pleas and threats before the protesters eventually occupied the Otumara Flow Station with a threat to shut down productions.

Dr Mrs Ajeh, who reportedly spoke on behalf of SPDC, was quoted as saying that her company worked closely with the Olu of Warri all through the process.

According to her, the Palace of the Olu was the clearing house for the naming of the Iwere Host Community Development Trust (Iwere-HCDT) and the nomination of members of the Board of Trustees reportedly submitted by the concerned host communities of the Iwere-HCDT, which she listed as Ode-Ugborodo, Ogidigben, Ajudaibo, Madangho, Deghele, and Ugboegungun.

She was also reported to have revealed that the Iwere-HCDT had since been registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and a certificate had already been issued.

A representative of CNL, Mr. Sam Daibo, who was also asked to explain why his company snubbed the protesting communities, disclosed that as a strategy for the implementation of the PIA, Chevron did it on an ethnic basis and approached the Olu of Warri, “being the only King of the Itsekiri,” to help facilitate and coordinate the entire implementation process.

He reportedly said that was why all the meetings with the host communities and decisions were held and took place in the Palace of the Olu of Warri, adding that the Warri Kingdom Onshore Host Community Development Trust and the Warri Kingdom Offshore Host Community Development Trust were at the advanced stages of registration at the CAC, with members of the Board of Trustees nominated by the communities and approved by the Olu of Warri.

Responding to Mr Daibo’s submission, Mr Mode Akoma, while speaking for the communities, said the two names given to Chevron by the Olu of Warri were unacceptable to the protesting communities.

He, reportedly, went ahead to list the following names agreed upon by the protesting communities for Chevron onshore and offshore operations in the protesting communities: Ikpere Host Community Development Trust (Ikpere-HCDT) of Ugborodo and Ugboegungun host communities; Abiteye Host Community Development Trust (Abiteye-HCDT) of Deghele, Bateren, and Omadino communities; Concerned Coastal Community Dwellers Host Communities Development Trust (Conc Concerned Coastal-HCDT) of 47 communities, split into six Blocks; and Concerned Deep Sea Communities Host Community Development Trust (Concerned Deep Sea-HCDT) of 47 communities, all in the Warri South-West LGA of Delta State.

Meanwhile, the lead representative of the protesting Otumara Flow Station host communities, Mr Eyengho, chided SPDC and CNL for acting out of the law in the implementation of PIA provisions.

“Shell has thus far acted ultra vires the PIA and the Regulations in terms of implementation, in this case, the naming of the HCDT and the selection, composition, and registration of the Board of Trustees of the Iwere-HCDT,” he averred while responding to the outcome of the meeting in Abuja.

He disclosed that before the team headed for Abuja for the tripartite meeting on Thursday and Friday, they had earlier, on Wednesday, “honoured the invitation of the Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, with the Secretary to the State Government, Kingsley Emu, and a few other commissioners in attendance, where the governor appealed to the protesting communities not to shut down the Shell-operated Otumara Flowstation, with a promise to meet with NUPRC, SPDC, and CNL.

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