The Bayelsa government on Wednesday indicated willingness to withdraw pending litigation against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) over unpaid revenue running into billions of naira.
It would be recalled that Bayelsa government had dragged SPDC to court over failure of the oil firm to pay ‘development levies.’
The development levies were for land acquired for the construction of SPDC’s Gbarain-Ubie gas facility in Yenagoa, Bayelsa capital.
The state government had in March suspended all agreements signed between oil firms and host communities, alleging that SPDC was fuelling communal clashes resulting to violence in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa.
Gov Douye Diri extended the olive branch when the Shell Country Chair and SPDC Managing Director, Mr Osagie Okunbor, led a management delegation on a courtesy visit to Government House, Yenagoa.
Speaking on the legal dispute over outstanding revenues owed the state by the company, Diri said, an amicable resolution was possible in the spirit of the renewed relationship between both parties.
The governor also spoke about his administration’s decision to supervise the signing and be a part of Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) between host communities and companies operating in the state.
He said that this was occasioned by cases of breaches of such agreements, which result in conflicts.
The policy, according to Diri, would be supervised by the Ministry of Justice in order to protect the interest of such communities and, by extension, the companies.
“We made that policy statement to say that all GMoUs to be signed between the communities and any company, including the oil companies, has to be supervised by the Ministry of Justice.
“This was because we want to at all times protect the interest of our communities and even the companies. Also, at all times, the state government would be aware of the issues.
“We have seen situations where GMoU is signed but only very few people, who claim to be community leaders, are aware of it. And that becomes a veritable tools for community conflicts,” he said.
According to the governor, the presence of Shell in Bayelsa was of mutual benefit to both parties.
The governor emphasised that the long-standing relationship between the state and Shell, after oil discovery in commercial quantity at Otuabagi community in Ogbia Local Government Area, was a proof that they were both inseparable in oil and gas business.
While assuring the company of a conducive working environment, Diri noted that the stereotype of insecurity in the Niger Delta as a ploy to deprive the goose that lays the golden egg was no longer tenable.
The governor solicited the partnership of Shell on major infrastructure projects like the proposed Nembe-Brass road as well as the ongoing Yenagoa-Oporoma and Sagbama-Ekeremor road projects.
He thanked the company for its support on the Ogbia-Nembe road.
Speaking at the event, Okunbor, noted the key steps taken by Diri to promote peace in the state and commended the governor’s leadership quality.
Okunbor described Bayelsa as the company’s most important host state, adding that the leadership of Shell company in Nigeria is impressed with the governor’s handling of affairs of the state and his support for their operations.
He said that Bayelsa was a host to some of the company’s most strategic assets that keeps it going.
The managing director pledged to sustain the relationship between the company and the state through investment in key developmental projects in the state.