Isoko people of Delta State under the Isoko cluster of oil producing communities have threatened to shut down the activities of oil facilities operating in the area.
According to the people, the shutdown is a result of the “backstabbing and connivance by the management of Heritage Energy Operational Services on the setting up of the Community Development Board (CDB)”.
The people accused the management of Heritage Energy Operational Services of backing the Urhobo people to marginalise and breach agreement on rotation of the principal executive positions in the Community Development Board (CDB), set up to operate the new Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU), for the Oil Mining Lease OML 30, noting that the Isoko clusters of oil producing communities in the oil bloc have pulled out of the CDB, and unless the Heritage Energy Operational Services recognises the Isoko separate Community Development Board (CDB), oil operations will be shut down in the area.
It would be recalled that last year, Patrick Oboghor, Chairman of Isoko Clusters Presidents General’ Forum, said the alleged grand design to stage-manage the election of a leading member of the dissolved CDB, as chairman of the new board, is provocative. He had also noted that the Isoko clusters had insisted on having a separate CDB based on their production quantum in OML 30, which he said stood at 65 per cent and the lack of equity in the constitution and operation of the last board.
According to Oboghor, the Isoko clusters had reluctantly agreed to remain in the board after the intervention of Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, who he said directed that Isoko should produce the next chairman of the board. He also said the Governor further directed that there should be a swap of all positions hitherto held by both Urhobo and Isoko members in the previous board.
Reacting to the issue, John Urete, Secretary of the Forum, had also lamented the ugly twist which he said negates the spirit of brotherliness, equity, fairness and integrity and called on Heritage Energy Operational Services and the Delta State government to quickly put machineries in place to constitute a separate board for the Isoko people, reiterating that they no longer have confidence in the process which he said, bears the toga of a master-servant relationship.
Mathias Eto, one-time Chairman of the Isoko South Local Government Area of the state and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Oleh cluster, had also stated that the board is not political but a sensitive one as it is meant to handle various issues relating to management of funds, projects and production quota, among others. He added that the GMoU is quite specific on the rotation of the various positions among major stakeholders.
Cross section of the Isoko cluster members noted that the real cause of the apprehension and division in OML30 host communities is the unwholesome activities of the OML30 CDB and the deliberate refusal of the former chairman and some former members of the OML30 CDB to vacate their positions after the expiration of their tenure on February 5, 2018, which is not acceptable to their people.
Speaking on the issue, a leader of the Isoko cluster said: "The CDB whose tenure has expired is being used to frustrate the GMoU review process between the host communities and Heritage to enable the CDB former officials continue in office, which is a very dangerous precedence and therefore, must be resisted. It is very embarrassing and disturbing to note that the former CDB officials want to remain in office illegally with the tactful support and connivance of some powerful officials of the Delta State government, particularly in the office of the Attorney-General.
"We, therefore, most respectfully wish to request that you urgently direct the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to call the officials concerned to order in the interest of peace. We implore Heritage and the Delta State government to urgently direct the former officials of OML30 CDB to account for the five years (2013-2017) Development Funds which the CDB received from NPDC/HEOSL for the development of the OML30 Host Communities."
Meanwhile, the Isoko nation host communities in OML 30 have set up a separate CDB, alleging discrimination and breach of agreement on rotation of principal executive positions in the CDB of the oil bloc, which comprises Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities.
They directed the management of Heritage Energy Operational Services to pay all funds accruing to the communities to officials of their board, warning that they will not guarantee “peaceful and uninterrupted operations” of the company in Isoko communities if it failed to abide by their resolution within 14 days.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting of their traditional rulers, presidents-general and cluster nominees, the communities said the interest of the Isoko nation cannot be protected in the OML 30 under the same CDB with the Urhobo nation.
The communiqué, signed by the Odiologbo of Oleh kingdom, HRM Anthony Ovrawah; President-General of Igbide Kingdom, Dr. Patrick Oboghor and 15 others, noted that arising from the discrimination against them, “the Isoko clusters, before the expiration of the tenure of the immediate past board, commenced a very intense agitation for the formation of their own separate and independent CDB”.