There is no doubt that the Oil Mining Lease (OML) number 11 covering the Ogoni area of Rivers State will remain an arena of controversy and crisis unless Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and its joint venture partner, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), can muster enough political will to be sincere and honest in dealing
with the concerns and interests of the people of the area.

The United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) – sponsored Ogoni cleanup exercise is still neither here nor there despite the ceremonial flag-off over a year ago by this same government. Now, a company owned by the same government is conniving with the accused rogue Anglo Dutch Shell to re-enter the crisis area and commence oil production. What is wrong with our government that each time they act, you only see insensitivity and tactlessness?

While Shell and the upstream subsidiary of the NNPC, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), have refused to make their contributions for the Ogoni cleanup as agreed in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)- sponsored peace deal, the joint venture continues to make irresponsible maneuvers to restart oil production in the area through the back door. Is this not government-supported impunity by the oil companies against the people whose interests the government should be defending?

There is a way you keep telling a group of people to go to hell that they actually decide to embark on the journey and see what would happen. How long can the indigenous people of the Niger Delta continue to take Shell and the federal government’s impunity and nonchalance against their concerns and interests?

Curiously, it seems not to occur to Shell and NNPC that the re-introduction of the controversial issue of restarting oil production in Ogoniland by the joint venture at a time the Ogoni people and indeed the entire global community are expecting the federal government to move with some deliberate speed in the implementation of the monumental remediation and restoration of the already over-polluted Ogoni environment, will be perceived as assaulting the collective sensibility and interests of the area and the wider Niger Delta.

Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, already, the present attempt by Shell and NPDC both of whom are joint venture partners to damn the community and even the global concerns as raised in the oil lease area, is being interpreted as a deliberate ploy by Shell in collaboration with the federal government to cause violent crisis in the area aimed at derailing the remediation and restoration process where both parties are supposed to make tangible contributions as major stakeholders in the mess.

If almost every interest group in Ogoni is unanimous in rejecting the forceful re-entry and resumption of oil production in the area and saying that neither Shell nor the NPDC is accepted in Ogoniland for any activity in OML 11, is it when a new wave of bloodshed and mindless killing returns in the area that the federal government particularly the Ag President, who inaugurated the yet-to-start cleanup exercise, would act and ask both Shell and NPDC to withdrawal from the area while dialogue continues with the people?

Is the government feigning ignorance of the fact that re-commencement of oil production activities under whatever guise or even the talk of it at this time in Ogoniland could be provocative and likely to incite protest against whoever is scheming to come in to mine oil? It was actions like this that pitched the communities against the oil companies and led to gross human rights violations and the current crises in the entire Niger Delta. By the way, who actually ordered Shell and the NPDC to commence the laying of pipelines in Ogoni against the agreed terms for the United Nation’s sponsored peace deal that culminated in the Ogoni cleanup program? How can we take one step forward and ten steps backward? Is
it not self deceit?

Was it not this same federal government in what seemed like the ultimate solution to the over two decades of sustained enmity and total loss of confidence between the Ogoni people and Shell, decided that the oil giant should divest all its operations in Ogoniland for a new oil firm to come in? And as said, the company’s operating license in the area would be revoked and new operator (s) would take over the company’s oilfields and facilities in the area. The government believed the best solution would be to allow another operator acceptable to the Ogonis take over exploitation activities in the area as nobody was gaining from the conflict and stalemate.

Has Shell actually divested (hands-off) its interests in OML 11 covering the Ogoni area of Rivers State? If yes, is NPDC the new investor/owner of Shell’s divested interests from OML 11? This is a very crucial issue because there are so many issues that are not very clear in the present rush by the NNPC upstream subsidiary to work for Shell’s interest in OML 11 towards restarting production in the controversial area.

Shell was supposed to be the operator (owner) of the Oil Mining Lease (OML 11) covering the Ogoni area of Rivers state. The company has 98 oil wells in about seven oilfields in the area. It also has five flowstations in Bodo West, Bomu, Yorla, Korokoro and Ebubu. Daily output from the area, according to Shell statistics, was at 28,000 barrels per day before the shut-in in 1993 after the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa et al.

First, it is very crucial to ascertain who now actually owns OML 11? Has Shell actually divested from oil mining lease? Does the lease now belong to NNPC/NPDC that was hitherto in joint venture partnership with Shell as the operator? When was the divestment done and how did the NNPC that was a co-culprit in the bastardization of Ogoniland acquire the lease?

If the federal government actually ordered Shell to relinquish its operational rights in Ogoni oil fields to a new operator (which now seems to be NPDC), how is the government going to get Shell to pay its counterpart funding for the clean-up and remediation exercise as proposed by the United Nations Environmental Programme for the Ogoni area? Is the NPDC as the new operator going to inherit only the assets of Shell in the oil concession without the accompanying liabilities or both? Would the NPDC agree or rather be able to raise such money for
the cleanup?

It is unacceptable not only to the Ogonis as already said by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) but to the entire oil producing Niger Delta area that many sensitive issues in the UNEP-sponsored cleanup program and the entire Shell’s asset divestment and acquisition plans are shrouded in much secrecy. This is counter- productive because it is outrightly suspicious.

Shouldn’t it have better for the federal government to have allowed the UNEP-proposed clean-up and remediation exercise to be completed or even record some tangible milestones before any talk of asset takeover by a new firm? Shell cannot pretend to be running away now because the company has serious obligation assigned to it in the cleanup exercise and if it is allowed to hands-off the acreage now or pretend to, the entire effort by both the federal government and UNEP at cleaning the massive oil spillage in the area would definitely run into a hitch.

This is the truth!

Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. You can reach him at