Group threatens protest against NNPC over Ogoni oilfield 

This is as the group raised the alarm over an alleged back-door deal between the NNPC and Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd over the operatorship of the oil fields without consulting the Ogoni people.

The group accused Sahara Energy of attempting to acquire the OML 11 operatorship through the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, alleging that payment of $300 million has been made to facilitate the acquisition of the oil block without the consent of the Ogoni people.

Leader of the group, Chief Gain Topba, in a letter to the Group CEO of NNPC Ltd. Mr. Mele Kyari, said Ogoni people have vowed to resist the deal, threatening massive protests and international media coverage if the NNPC Ltd fails to rescind its decision of granting any operatorship licence on Ogoni oilfield without the people’s prior consent.

Topba, warned that the deal would lead to “avoidable crises and bloodbath” in Ogoniland, recalling the violent clashes of the 1990s over oil exploitation in the area.

The letter read: “It is with a deep sense of concern that we write to complain about the ongoing back-door plot by NNPCL to grant the operatorship of Petroleum Mining Lease 11(formerly OML 11 – the Ogoni Fields) to Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of the Sahara Group Limited. We are afraid that this action of the NNPCL which you superintend over, will plunge Ogoniland into a fresh round of avoidable crises and bloodbath.

“Our intelligence reveals that under the arrangement, the NNPCL is holding subterranean discussions with Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd with a view to finalising the grant of the operatorship of PML 11 to Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd, and this is taking place without any form of consultation with the Ogoni people.

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“This action of the NNPCL and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources violates the Ogoni people’s right to free, prior and informed consent and inclusion in discussions over issues that affect not only their environment but also their livelihood support systems.”

It continued: “To ensure the seamless execution of this behind-the-scene plot, information at our disposal with very compelling evidence is that over $300 million was paid by NNPC Ltd to the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, which is intended for use by the FCT Minister in getting the buy-in of certain Ogoni representatives in government to enable the acquisition of the Ogoni oil blocks through the back door.

“This allegation was made openly in all media spaces by Hon. Boma Goodhead, Member representing the good people of Asari Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives sometime in December 2023. Quite surprisingly, we are worried that neither the NNPCL which you superintend, nor Mr. Nyesom Wike has made any serious attempt to deny the allegations of financial impropriety made by the said legislator.

“We are, however, concerned that in peacefully and non-violently asserting our collective rights to our environment, our God-given resources and to our livelihoods, there appears to be a thick cloud of violence and oppression gathering over Ogoniland. We do not know the approach which NNPCL and Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd would adopt, especially when the sum of $300 million allegedly released by the company is involved.

“It is, therefore, with the benefit of hindsight that the COOP seeks your urgent intervention to save the lives of the Ogoni people by backtracking from any planned back-door attempt to grant the operatorship of the Ogoni Fields to Sahara Energy. We, therefore, appeal to you to withdraw from any transaction with Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd in relation to Ogoni Fields, until some of the legacy issues surrounding the oil block are resolved.

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This, no doubt, would in no small measure douse the tension in the area and prevent a repeat of the Ogoni pogrom of the 1990s.

“Should this friendly appeal not be heeded, may we inform you, sir, that we have already mobilised Ogoni people in readiness for mother-of-all protests at the NNPC Towers Abuja and at the Corporate Headquarters of Sahara Energy International Pte Ltd in Lagos to drive home our demands for inclusion in discussions over the exploitation of the mineral resources in our land, environmental sustainability and protection of our people’s livelihoods.

“We are going to massively mobilise both international and local media to give the widest coverage to our agitations and to take our message to the international community and Mr. President that Ogoni people are not opposed to the resumption of oil operations in Ogoniland, but are only demanding that certain unresolved issues which led to the shut-in of oil operations in the 1990s should first be addressed.”

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