President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Ogele Okaba, has constituted a seven-member committee to investigate the operations of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 46 also known as Atala Oilfied which was acquired by the Bayelsa State Government but was recently revoked by the Federal Government.
Inaugurating the committee at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa on Thursday, September 23, Prof. Okaba, described as worrisome the controversial revocation and subsequent re-allocation of the state’s oil asset to another operator by the Federal Government.
He said after the re-assigning of the Atala oilfield to a new company, “we have series of tales bordering on privatization, ownership by trick to open illegal bunkering activities ongoing at the site”.
Okaba said: “The Ijaw nation cannot continue to clamour for resource ownership, resource control and management without demonstrating concern over how our commonwealth, the Atala oilfield allocated to the Ijaw people in Bayelsa and other resources/ interventions are managed and mismanaged.
“Keeping quiet in the midst of this internal self-inflicted misery occasioned by our supposed leaders who have become the greatest obstacles to our development and emancipation, would remain a huge moral burden that we don’t intend to bear, especially at this crucial state of the struggle”.
The INC, president who gave the committee three weeks to submit its report, urged the members to carry out a full-scale probe into the management of the Atala oilfield since inception and look into the circumstances and factors that led to the re-allocation of the OML 46 licence.
Okaba, also asked the committee to identify persons or group of persons responsible for the current despicable state of Atala oilfield and recommend ways of reversing the re-allocation of the oil asset to the Bayelsa State Government, among others.
The committee is headed by Professor Ambily Etekpe with the national legal adviser of the INC, Barr. Bomo-Toms Fetepigi-Obhe, as Secretary while Ayakeme Whiskey will serve as vice chairman.
Other members are an environmental rights activist, Alagoa Morris, Alfred Doibo, Pereowei Subai and Igbamukumo Jephthah (Assistant Secretary).
In April 2020, the Federal Government through the Department of Petroleum Resources announced the revocation of 11 out of 13 marginal oilfield licences which it issued to indigenous oil companies, including the Atala oilfield which was first acquired in 2003 by the Bayelsa State Government.
But in June 2021, the Federal Government granted approval for the handing over of the revoked Bayelsa oil asset licence to a new operator, Halkin Exploration and Production Limited.