Women and Youths from the Opu-Nembe and other host communities of the OML 29 an Oil Mining Lease operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Limited (Aiteo) have thrown their weight behind the court action filed against the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over the demand for refund over allege crude diversion.

According to the Communities, the Federal Government should prevail on the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (Shell) to respect the report of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR and the ruling of the Federal High Court demanding that they eight (2,081,678) barrels of crude oil to Aiteo and other oil producers from whom Shell had illegally diverted the crude oil.

While the Women and Youths of Opu-Nembe in Nembe Local Government area of the State staged a peaceful protest led by the Youth President, Engr. Moses Ayerite and Woman Leader, Mrs. Beredugo Afuroyanate to urge the Federal Government to prevail on SPDC to pay up on the allege sum on the diverted crude oil in order for the Aeiteo to sign the needed Global Memorandum of Understanding with host communities for steady power supply, social amenities and student scholarships.

Speaking during the peaceful protest, the Youth President, Engr. Moses Ayerite told newmen that though they had invaded the Aiteo platform few months ago in protest against neglect, ”what we were told was that the SPDC allege short-change of crude since 2016 till date has grossly affected their financial capability to enter into a GMoU with the host communities. We call on SHELL to pay Aiteo because we want our GMoU signed for corporate social responsibility to the people.”

On the placard displayed by the protesting Opu-Nembe Youths were inscriptions such “shell: stop stealing Aiteo’s crude oil”.”DPR: caution shell for stealing crude oil”, “Shell is criminally reducing Bayelsa revenue allocation” and “Shell is shortchanging Nembe people”.

In their position paper on the development, the representatives of the OML 29 Nembe Host Communities Forum led by Dr. Alabodite George and Secretary, Barr. Patrick Ndaikienyu, said their interest in the ongoing face-off between SHELL and Aeiteo was due to the fact that the portion of crude oil belonging to Aiteo which Shell has diverted was produced from OML 29 which are oilfields largely within the Nembe territories in Bayelsa State, ”Diverting the crude oil and depriving Aiteo of the financial benefits of same has the direct impact of depriving Aiteo of funds some of which could be utilized for the benefit of the Nembe host communities”.

“Whereas, whilst like other oil and gas host communities in Nigeria, we desire that more be done by government and the oil companies to alleviate the level of economic hardship and suffering in the oil producing communities, Aiteo has been more considerate to the plight of the host communities in terms of sustainable benefits than Shell ever was. For that reason, we commend Aiteo whilst we emphasize that more sustainable development efforts still require being put into the host communities”.

Having given the above background, we must state that it is with surprise that we received news of the allegation made by Aiteo that Shell has been diverting and stealing large quantities of crude oil transported by Aiteo to Shell’s Bonny Export Terminal for export. This is a most unprecedented development which calls for urgent action by Government. That is the reason why as host communities providing the bulk of Aiteo’s crude oil production we have considered it imperative that we make an urgent statement on the issue.

“Diverting the crude oil and depriving Aiteo of the financial benefits of same has the direct impact of depriving Aiteo of funds some of which could be utilized for the benefit of the Nembe host communities? It goes without saying that the effect of diverting the crude oil from Aiteo’s production expunges those production figures from crude oil production figures of Bayelsa State and Nembe Local Government Area for the period of the said diversion. Thus Bayelsa State which is a major beneficiary of Aiteo’s crude oil production is also a major victim in Shell’s disgraceful business conduct”.

“We are aware that till date Shell is yet to refund the crude oil to Aiteo. This is in clear disregard of the clear instructions of the DPR. The effect is that not only Aiteo but also Bayelsa State and by extension the nation of Nigeria is being shortchanged in this affair by Shell. It is our duty to draw attention to the adverse effects of this entire affair on our communities and the economy of Bayelsa State”.

It would be recalled that the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) had denied the allegations of involvement in oil theft at its Bonny Crude Export Terminal, describing it as misleading.

It was gathered that a 2 million barrels crude deficit between 2016 and 2018 reported at the Bonny terminal operated by SPDC has caused a dispute amongst several oil firms that use the oil export facility.

Aiteo Exploration and Production Company claimed that SPDC shortchanged it of 1,022,029 barrels of crude while using the Bonny Crude Export Terminal operated by SPDC between 2016 and 2018. Aiteo, an indigenous oil firm which acquired OML 29 for US$2.4 billion following SPDC’s 2015 divestment of its 45 per cent stake from the asset. OML 29 includes the 97-kilometer NCTL which has capacity to lift up to 180,000 barrels per day of crude from oilfields in Bayelsa and Rivers to the Bonny terminal.