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Anniversary Special

Rivers Amazons

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As Rivers people celebrate 50 years of the creation of Rivers State, efforts and contributions made by the women in the growth and development of the state cannot be over-looked.
This piece, therefore, seeks to chronicle major milestones made by some selected Rivers Amazons whose contributions in their various fields engendered rapid socio-economic development of the state.
Since the creation of the state, it has, however, been male dominated, women have also played key roles, protecting the interest of the oil-rich state otherwise known as the Treasure Base of the nation.
Rivers women have made significant difference in various spheres of life including politics, government, education, religion, sports, engineering, medicine, fashion and entertainment.
In the era of Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, the first Governor of Rivers State between 1975 and 1976 women made their marks, in the academia and sports.  Women like Miss Ethel Jacks, who won the African table tennis championship in 1973 and 1975, Mercy Akide, a two-time African footballer of the year from 2000 to 2002 and Mrs Inyengiyikabo Okumgba won several medals  nationally and internationally in swimming.  Sports as a unifying factor has kept Nigeria going and given Rivers State the desired prominence.  Bella Bell-Gam made Rivers State proud as she won the gold medal in the 1978 All African Games held in Algeria alongside other championship awards.
The first female Commissioner, Mrs Constance Sarowinyo was appointed during the Melford Okilo administration as Commissioner for Higher Education and Commissioner for Economic Development and Planning.
She was also a member of the then National Committee on FESTAC 77.  Dr Sarowinyo, who is a Medical Scientist was a consultant on Oil Spillage and Environmental Pollution and a one-time member of the 10th Governing Council of Rivers State University of Science and Technology (now Rivers State University) who in pursuance of the development and growth of Rivers State worked tirelessly to win the Motto/Logo Award  of Niger Delta Development Commission.
Thereafter, Prof Mrs Bene Willy Abbey, who was saddled with affairs of moving the state forward in Information, Culture and Tourism came into the picture of the Amazons as she was appointed the only female in the cabinet of Group Captain Ernest Adeleye, the then military governor.
Rivers women are no mean people, always ensuring that the goals and aspirations of the state  are realized.  As a result, another prominent woman was found and appointed Mrs Bene Abbey a pioneer member in two different institutions.
1.Board of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD)
2.West Africa Research and Innovation Management Association.
Professor Abbey with several degrees gave a very high profile to the state as she served in the National University Commission as well as in the Rivers State Scholarship Board and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission between 1997 and 1999.
Ms Medline Ngo Tador served as Commissioner in two Ministries, Women Affairs and Social Development, Ministry of Information and Culture. The trend continues as women occupied the women ministry and that of information and culture because between 1999 and 2007 Mrs Julie Wika was not only appointed commissioner but was honoured as the best performing Director-General in the 36 states of the federation.
Mrs Toru Ofili was not left out as she was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in 2003 but prior to that time, she had been in charge of social services and Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties in 2000.
Rivers State is known to be the first in most areas even as it was the first to have Miss Syster Jack as Miss Nigeria in 1980.  Jack handed over to Miss Agbani Darego who promoted Rivers State globally, as she was crowned Miss World in 2001.
In governance, Ngeri Benebo now 62 years, was in governance from 2006 to 2015 as Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Environmental Standard and Regulations Enforcement (NESERA).  As a daughter of the soil and in moving the state forward occupied various offices and one of the most outstanding achievements was the introduction of the 28 environmental regulations into the Gazette of the state government.
Another illustrious daughter is Ann-Kio Briggs, an environmental and human rights activist, who was founder and executive director of a non-governmental organization, “Agape Birth Right”. She moved on to become the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly (IRA), also member in the energy development security strategy (UNDEDSS).
Ms Gloria Fiofori, a dynamic women leader worked and served her state tirelessly, she was a Commissioner, General Manager of the State Broadcasting Corporation and the Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA).
Dr Ngozi N. Odu is not left out as she has occupied the office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, state President of the National Council of Women Society (NCWS), and a Commissioner for Education who during her time, the state witnessed the pursuit of  progressive education policies.
Ministry of Works considered as a Ministry for the male folk because of its activities witnessed a change within 2003 and 2006 as a woman, Okpete F Ovai was found to be capable of that seat and piloted the affairs with positive difference. Prof Mildred Amakiri, a scholar with vast technical knowledge held various positions as a Commissioner for Higher Education. She belonged to over 10 national and international professional bodies.
In politics, Rivers women are gradually making their marks as the state has witnessed the first female Deputy Governor, Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Benigo.  She had held several exalted seats before now. Hon Mrs Betty Iyne Apiafi is currently the member, representing Abua/Odual/Ahoada East Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Hon (Mrs) Blessing Ibiba Nsiegbe is another woman, highly respected in the Federal House of Representatives, representing Port Harcourt Constituency.  Late Mrs Anthonia Membere, an outspoken and active woman, Mrs Linda Somiari Stewart is a renowned journalist and Hon Irene M. Inimgba were all in the House of Assembly.
In the judiciary, we have Hon Justice Mary U. Odili as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.  Daisy Wotube Okocha served as a Chief Judge being the 7th since the creation of the state.  Another Woman is Elsie Nwanwuri Thompson, a Judge of the High Court of Rivers State also the Deputy Vice President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), first Nigerian to be elected to the African Court on Human and People Rights.  In the education subsector, the women equally made a mark as Dr Constance Tamuno became the first female Registrar of the University of Science and Technology also appointed acting Registrar University of Port Harcourt in 2000.
A woman was the pioneer Vice Chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Prof (Mrs) Rosemund Dieye Green-Osaghogulu.  Also Dr Balafama Wilcox was appointed Provost of the state College of Arts and Science now Port Harcourt Polytechnic.
Women have made tremendous contributions in the economic, cultural and social emancipation of Rivers State.
This explains the reason many have continued to call for deliberate affirmative actions in women mobilization in the socio-political development of the state.
Recall that the immediate past First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Patience Jonathan, advocated 35% affirmative action for which almost 35% was met through appointment, elective positions and others.
Women should support themselves as politics is a game of numbers, so considering the numerical strength of women available in Nigeria, women can make the difference.
Thankfully, the state has a women friendly Governor, who with his political will is ready to surpass the 35% affirmative action.  All needs is the right legislative framework.  Let the women stop watching and become players to achieve the desired goal.
Many Thanks to our Rivers Amazons.

  Abiebuka Johnson

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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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