Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa
It could be recalled that the minister, who spoke on the sidelines of the just concluded Nigeria Oil and Gas Opportunities in Yenagoa on Saturday, noted that he was yet to be served the court processes.
The minister was reacting to assurances question on the position of the government on the litigation and said the process would go on as scheduled.
“To start with, I have not been served with the court processes, I have only heard of it in the gossip space and the case cannot affect oil production, we cannot halt oil production because there is a disagreement with the community,” kachikwu said.
However, the legal counsel to Opu-Nembe Kingdom, Mr Iniruo Wills, criticised the Minister’s comments.
Wills who is also the President of the Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland chapter) said: “This is a careless lie and a shocking disregard for the legal process and rule of law.”
“It unveils the minister’s sheer contempt for oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, and is extremely insensitive coming from such a highly placed public policy executive, especially a very senior lawyer like Kachikwu.
“The comment has potential to provoke host communities to take matters into their own hands, which we do not encourage and must do everything to avoid, including the plaintiff communities’ adoption of the legal process that Kachikwu is now thumbing his nose at.” wills said.
It would be recalled that the people of Opu-Nembe in Bayelsa on March 26 urged the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, to halt the renewal of lease for OML 29 to Aiteo, pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court.
The development was sequel to plans by the minister of petroleum resources to renew the lease of OML 29 oil block to Aiteo for $82 million without regards to the position of the community in Suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.
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 State and The Deeds Registrar, Bayelsa State Ministry of Lands.
Although Kachikwu had denied knowledge of the case, S. Soberekon, appeared as Counsel to the minister of petroleum resources, on the resumed hearing.
The application sought an order restraining the minister of petroleum resources from granting any application for the renewal of OML 29 beyond the subsisting 30-year term