Aiteo’s OML 29 suit: Court declines application to stay hearing

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The Nembe communities in Bayelsa had filed a suit against Aiteo Exploration and Production Limited, but another firm Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Exploration Company approached the court to be joined as the holder of OML 29 lease.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro, had joined Aiteo Eastern Exploration Limited and other adjourning communities in the suit, but declined an application to strike out Aiteo Exploration and Production Company from the suit.

Aiteo Exploration and Exploration subsequently headed to the court of Appeal in Port Harcourt and applied to the Federal High Court to stay proceedings pending the determination of the appeal.

Earlier, Lead Counsel to the Nembe communities, Mr Iniruo Wills, told the court that they had filed a counter affidavit opposing the application for stay of execution saying that the application was a delay tactics to waste the time of the court.

He urged the court to consider the plight of the law abiding people of Nembe who had taken the peaceful route in seeking legal redress rather than resorting to self help.

Mr Andrew Oru, Counsel to Aiteo Exploration, urged the court to grant its application for stay but other parties who were joined as co-plantiffs opposed the application on the grounds that they were yet to be served.

The OML, was supposed to be renewed on June 30, 2019

The court had on June 24, 2019 declined an application to halt the renewal of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 pending, the determination of a suit by Nembe communities in Bayelsa.

The OML 29 host communities are seeking an environmental audit of the impact of the oil field on the host communities, and the implementation of the social obligations of the host communities by the operator of the oil block amongst others.

The presiding judge in a response to Oru maintained that the applications being argued was yet to be formally brought before her.

She therefore adjourned the case until May 12 for ruling on pending applications on the case.

The lease expired on June 30, 2020 while the operator of the oilfields had commenced renewal formalities with the payment of 82 million dollars to the Department of Petroleum Resources

The plaintiffs are Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B.C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 host communities.

The defendants are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

Others are: Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd, Attorney-General of Bayelsa and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa Ministry of Lands.

Shell Petroleum Development Company in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in the oil block, including the 97 kilometer Nembe Creek Trunk Line for 1.7 billion dollars to Aiteo.

However, the host community, said the divestment was done “without resolving the untold negative impact of their operations on the people”

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