The Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa yesterday fixed June 24 for further hearing on the attempts by the aggrieved Nembe communities in Bayelsa State to halt the renewal of oil mining lease of Aiteo Exploration and Production Limited.
Also to be heard on the adjourned date is the application of other communities within the OML 29 area seeking to join the suit filed before the court.
In the suit numbered FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015, the Nembe communities are seeking the court to stop the minister of Petroleum Resources from renewing the lease of OML 29 oil block to Aiteo for $82 million without regard to the position of the community.
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 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.
At the resumed hearing yesterday in Court 2, Federal High Court, Yenagoa, lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Iniruo Wills informed the court that the communities were making progress on the out of court settlement option and would require an adjournment to pave way for further discussions.
Wills said that the plaintiffs would also use the window of the adjournment to study the applications for joinder in the matter.
“Between March and now, we have made some progress at settling out of court and we will require short adjournment to be able to update the court on the outcome of ongoing talks amongst the parties.
“Also we have been served with batteries of applications by several groups seeking to be joined in the suit, the adjournment will enable us to study them,” Wills said.
Justice, Awogboro Abimbola, fixed June 24 for hearing on the application for joinders and update on the settlement.
Shell Petroleum Development Company in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in the oil block, including NCTL for $1.7 billion to Aiteo.
However, the host community, said the divestment was done “without resolving the untold negative impact of their operations on the people. It was learnt that the lease will expire on June 30, 2019 , while the operator of the oilfields had commenced renewal formalities by payment of $82 million to the Department of Petroleum Resources.”