Eight companies told to cease royalty payments to illegitimate landowners at Roku

AES operations at Ravuvu Industrial Park illegally on customary owned land, AES Pic
AES operations at Ravuvu Industrial Park illegally on customary owned land, AES Pic

By John Samar 

Port Moresby: Papua New Guinea:-Eight companies operating illegally on customary land at Roku have been given notices to stop paying royalty monies to fraudsters.Roku village is adjacent to Singapore’s Puma Oil Refinery at Napanapa, and the Exxon Mobil managed US$15 million LNG plant at Boera south of Port Moresby.

Kusip & Associate lawyers acting for the Kuriu Integrated Land Group of Roku issued notices to these companies on 22nd September ordering the companies to stop the payments they had been making to a Mr.Inogo Gabe of the Ohobiduduare Property Development Company.

The directive was made following a Central Provincial Lands Court decision on 2nd September 2014 favouring Kuriu Clan as the major landowning group of the land known as Portion 2467C which was illegally registered under the controversial Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) scheme initiated by the Department of Lands and Physical Planning.

The companies affected are: Avenell Engineering Services Ltd, SPIECAPAG Ltd, OilMin Ltd, New Guinea Energy trading as Western Drilling Ltd, Ali Barten Ltd, Firewall Logistics, Oil Search Ltd and Mark Maipakai. Mr Maipakai is a former Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations in the current Peter O’Neill government.

When handing down the decision on 2nd September 2014, the Magistrate, Mr. Jimmy Tappat stated that the appeal by the Kuriu Clan was upheld because: the Local Court decision of 2009 which gave Inogo Gabe and his family 100% gardening and natural rights over the Ohobiduduare gravel pit land that dates back to his ancestor Rei Seri in 1892 is quashed because the magistrate at that time had erred in law, and that Order is now gone. This is because the Kuriu Clan members and Kuriu ILG also have some interest over the gravel pit known as Ohobiduduare.

Kusip Lawyers in a letter to the eight companies told them that the parcels of land where Avenell Engineering Services and Firewall Ltd and other parcels of lands, where other companies are operating from are NOT Ohobiduduare Land. “These parcels of land belong to the Kuriu Clan and they have their own traditional names attached to each of them. Therefore, Mr.Inogo Gabe will now confine himself to the Gravel Pit which is known as Ohobiduduare”.

The lawyers also advised the eight companies that they(the lawyers) have filed a report with the Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning and the Registrar of Titles to implement the Papua New Guinea Government’s National Executive Council (NEC) decision No. 184/2014 at Meeting No: 4/2014 of the Ministerial Committee on SABLs and this SABL is no exception. The lawyers said the current NEC decision had directed the above provisions of the Land Act to be repealed, as those provisions had been frequently abused.

Kusip Lawyers also informed the companies that they have instructions to file Writs of Summons alleging fraud and claim damages for trespass and causing structural damage to customary land, on all these business houses operating therein as well as Mr.Inogo Gabe.

Five portions of Portion 2467C illicitly registered under the (SABL) scheme were subdivided and leased to companies such as AES, SPIECAPAG, OilMin, Western Drilling,Ali Barten, Firewall Logistics, Oil Search and Mark Maipakai. These companies have beenillegitimately operating on Portions 2489C, 2490C, 2491C, 2492, and 2493C.

The Lawyers have instructed all the eight companies and individuals operating on Kuriu customary land, not to pay any Royalty Monies to Mr.Inogo Gabe or any of his servants or agents or to any other persons who is claiming to be a land owner.

They warned the companies that if they make any royalty payments to any person now, they might end up losing their money. In addition, the Lawyers added that The Kuriu Clan would be asking the eight companies to make back payments until other cases are complete.

AES is operating on Portion 2492. It has constructed various facilities such as a wharf, and workshops and accommodation. Already operational, the 72-hectare Ravuvu park aims to offer a full range of facilities including accommodation, office space, commercial and industrial lots, workshops, a licensed dangerous goods area, holding yards and lay down areas, as well as recreational and catering facilities. ‘I want to give companies a fully-serviced platform on which they can build their business,’ says Dominic Avenell, Managing Director of AES.

In 2013, AES secured a loan of US$4 million (K8.9 million) from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to construct a new port at the Ravuvu industrial Park area.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a member of the World Bank Group, which also includes the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). IFC’s business is investment in private sector projects through loans, equity investment, and other financial instruments. It is IFC policy that all its operations are carried out in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. To this end, IFC projects must comply with applicable IFC environmental, social and disclosure policies.

In addition, IFC applies World Bank Group environmental, health and safety guidelines to all projects. In sectors where no appropriate IFC policies or guidelines exist, IFC applies relevant internationally recognized standards. Furthermore, the project sponsor must ensure compliance with host country requirements.

The IFC may have failed its duty to carry our due diligence to ensure that the land acquired by AES was done legally, and that all the customary landowners were duly consulted and compensated for their land. The majority of the landowners never benefited from this deal except one man- Inogo Gabe who had claimed that he was the sole landowner.

For further information please call MomoruSarani on telephone 675 712 83227 or John Samar on 67570430982 and email waibaisan@yahoo.com