A group of lawyers from Nembe in Bayelsa have accused local oil group Aiteo of failing to live up to its obligations to the communities which host its main oil mining lease.
The group named Nembe SA Lawyers Forum, said that Aiteo has refused to employ the natives of the communities and that its exploration has damaged the environment leading to pollution of farmlands and water.
The group, in a statement emailed to Lagos Times newspaper accused Aiteo of other “crimes” against its host communities. Aiteo did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The Lagos Times newspaper reproduces the statement in full:
AITEO: STOP THE DEHUMANIZATION, IMPOVERISHMENT AND DESTRUCTION OF OML 29 HOST COMMUNITIES
PUBLIC STATEMENT BY NEMBE-SE LAWYERS FORUM ON THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE NEMBE-SE COMMUNITIES AND AITEO EASTERN E&P LIMITED, OPERATOR OF OML 29
The Nembe-SE Lawyers Forum (NLF) is gravely concerned with the ongoing conflict between Aiteo Eastern E&P Company (AITEO), operator of the Oil Mining Lease 29, and its host Nembe-SE Communities of Nembe (Bassambiri and Ogbolomabiri), Obioku, Odioma and Ibidi in Nembe and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State.
This unfortunate dispute, which culminated in the recent protest actions, by leaders, women and youths of the host communities on Aiteo’s oil production platforms at Santa Barbara, Odioma Creek, and Nembe Creek, which was triggered by the following grievances;
- Aiteo’s persistent refusal to negotiate and implement a fair and equitable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide meaningful support for the progressive development of the host communities
- Aiteo’s extensive destruction of the environment and livelihoods of the communities through its hazardous operations and failing equipment
- Aiteo’s lack of commitment to environmental remediation of polluted areas; and non-payment of adequate compensation to victims of oil pollution
- Aiteo’s refusal to employ indigenes of host communities in executive, middle level and other professional positions
- Aiteo’s refusal to engage and retain the services of contractors from the host communities in line with the standards prescribed by law
- Blatant insider abuses, manipulation and violation of the industry’s local and community content regulations to frustrate or unfairly deny patronage to indigenous contractors
- Unreasonable and punitive delay in making payments to the very few indigenous contractors for jobs fully executed
These demands are all legitimate and border within the natural, derivative and proprietary interests and rights of the host communities in and over OML 29.
The least Aiteo must do is to fulfill these minimum demands in the interest of peaceful and harmonious coexistence with the host communities.
Aiteo has earned and continues to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every day in profits since it took over the ownership and operations of OML 29 five years ago from The Shell Petroleum Development Company yet Aiteo prefers to starve and scorch the host communities with poverty, misery and degradation of their environment.
Why is it so difficult for Aiteo to set aside just a scratch of its humongous profits to enhance the living conditions of the impoverished host communities and revitalize their much damaged environment?
Aiteo’s lack of commitment to the livelihood and environmental rights of the OML 29 host communities, is oppressive, inhuman and unacceptable.
Aiteo cannot continue to operate in repudiation of its economic, social and environmental responsibilities to the host communities and expect peace and tranquility in return.
Aiteo must realize that it is in its own best business interest to repent from the odious approach to community engagements and use the current calm to address the issues and meet the demands of the host communities and Brass Local Government Areas.
We insist on a comprehensive audit of all Aiteo’s equipment and pipeline facilities by a joint committee of experts, the regulatory agencies and the host communities to stem the frequent oil spillages and degradation of the environment.
It should be clearly understood that Aiteo’s actions have trampled on the livelihood and environmental rights of the Nembe and Brass Local Government Areas.
No society conscious of its rights will fold its arms and watch hopelessly being impoverished, ravaged and irreparably destroyed by an irresponsible business entity.
As a major stakeholder, the NLF will not shirk its duty to defend and protect the inherent rights of our people to resource control, development, healthy environment and sustainable livelihood.
We therefore request the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, other regulatory agencies, the federal government and Bayelsa state to prevail on Aiteo to be a responsible corporate citizen with its host communities and prevent the looming crisis that could result in a prolonged shutdown of its operations and losses in revenues accruable to the country.
We wish to also plead with the host communities to ensure that they are represented by people of strong character, conviction and competence to properly articulate, demand and achieve tangible results as the planned negotiations with Aiteo.
Finally, the NLF prays and hopes that this conflict will be amicable resolved in such a manner as would provide a win-win for all parties involved without delay.