By Davies Iheamnachor
PORT HARCOURT— The signing of Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, for the re-opening of Oil Mining Lease, OML25, and the payment of outstanding funds of the extant Global Memorandum of Understanding, GMoU, owed the host communities as facilitated by Rivers State government between Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and its hosts has sparked heavy protest and tension in Kula Kingdom in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state.
This came as two of the signatories to the agreement, the paramount ruler of Offoin-Ama, HRH Sibia Sukubo, and a Women Leader of Offian-Ama, Mrs. Markson Telema, said they were only told to sign a document for Shell to pay them their GMoU entitlements and not for the oil giant to resume operations in the area.
The chiefs, women, youths and men of Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ngeje communities in Akuku-Toru council, owners of the OML25, following the signing of the MoU at Government House in Port Harcourt on Monday, staged a protest, yesterday, rejecting the deal.
It will be recalled that the state government had brokered peace between the host communities and the oil firm over the closure of the oil field for over two years following alleged neglect and marginalisation of the community by Shell. The peace move was sealed with the signing of an MoU.
But, yesterday, HRH Sukubo, who spoke at a meeting of the chiefs of the area before the protest, told the council that he was not aware that part of the document was MoU, adding that he remained in support that SPDC should not resume in the area, but pay all the entitlements owed them.
Speaking during the protest at Offoin-Ama community, women leader of Offoin-Ama community, Mrs. Markson Telema, said: “We’re not happy Shell has operated in our community for over 40 years with no employment for the women.
“We have many graduates but no job for them and only on Monday, we were invited to Rivers State Government House and they brought paper that we should sign for part of the community GMoU and not for SPDC to resume oil operation in our land.”
Also, Chairman of the Community Development Committee, CDC, Mr. Jonah Joshua, noted that the communities had rejected the signing of the MoU by some chiefs.
Joshua insisted that the communities would not allow SPDC resume operations in the area, adding that the chiefs that signed the agreement were misled.
He said: “Our paramount ruler, HRH Sukubo, was misled by some group of people who took him to Rivers State Government House to sign the agreement for SPDC to resume activities in Kula Kingdom and the communities are not happy.
“We are urging the Rivers State Government to steer clear and face the task of developing the state and stop causing confusion in Kula.”