Court Rejects Petition to Stop Renewal of Aiteo’s OML 29

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SWITZERLAND, JUNE 25 – A Federal High Court at Yenagoa has rejected a petition brought before it, seeking to stop the renewal of the licence for Oil Mining Lease (OML)29, operated by indigenous oil giant, Aiteo.

Justice Awogboro Abimbola declared the judgement on Monday in a ruling in response to an application by lead counsel to the Plaintiffs, Iniruo Wills. She declined to grant the application and adjourned the case until September 27 to hear applications of parties seeking to join the suit.

The licence will expire on June 30, and Aiteo had already commenced renewal formalities with the payment of $82 million to the Department of Petroleum Resources. The plaintiffs want the court to suspend the licence renewal ahead of substantive judgement on the issue.

The development has been hailed by many, including leaders from Aiteo’s host community, Nembe in Bayelsa State.

A prominent oil and gas lawyer who hails from the NigerDelta spoke to Today’s Echo on the issue, requesting that his identity be protected due to subjudice as there is still a related pending suit in the court.

“There is no legal basis for the application in the first place as this is an asset owned by the Federal Government and the petitioners do not represent Aiteo’s host community but are just a section. Moreover, I think the petition is not in the interest of Nigeria to shut in its already strained revenues, neither is it in the interest of the community to be honest. I don’t think it is right for a faction of the host community to hold a company responsible for legacy issues predating its acquisition of the asset. Rather than trying to stop the company’s renewal, I think the point has been made to the company and community members should be embrace its overtures for engagement and work together to inclusion progress .”

Today’s Echo had reported in April this year that Aiteo appointed Victor Okoronkwo as its Managing Director following a restructuring and repositioning of its executive management. Today’s Echo gathers from reliable sources that following its appointment, the new management has swung into action to intensify development and engagement activities in its host communities, including the Nembe area of Bayelsa, where there has been some recent friction with the indigenes.

Due to a combination of lack of trust, political interference and misinformation, tension between indigenes of host communities amongst themselves on one hand, and with oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, on the other hand, is quite common.

Reportedly, Victor Okoronkwo and his team have taken steps to douse the tension and engender cordial relationship with the Nembe people; reaching out to key stakeholders in a bid to resolve the friction and expedite Aiteo’s contributions to the development of the community. Aiteo recently donated N500 Million to the Bayelsa State Education Trust Fund.

Dabiri Ekperi, a writer who hails from Bayelsa State, said false, inflammatory and exaggerated statements that mislead the public are the major causes of tension in the Niger Delta.

According to Ekperi, ensuring that the Niger Delta people benefit from the resource beneath their land is a collective burden shared by all parties, including the government, the companies, and members of the community.

“While, some oil companies cannot extricate themselves from blame due to poor community relations and irresponsible oil production, often times, the problem is more complex and deep-seated,” Ekperi said.

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