There was uproar among the members of the Safe Environment Advocacy groups and Indigenes of Ogboinbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State over the declaration by the management of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) that the 550 barrels of underwater oil leak in the area does not have adverse impact on indigenes of the area.
The SPDC had on March 5, 2015 confirmed that an oil leak from its underwater line within its oil fields in, Ogboinbiri, Bayelsa and also confirmed that it discharged some 550 barrels of crude into Ogboinbiri River on Jan. 23, 2015. A Joint Investigation (JIV) report had it that the leakage was caused by equipment failure due to a ruptured pipeline.
Reacting to delays in compensation for the oil spill in compliance with applicable laws, SPDC in a response made available to newsmen in Yenagoa said the oil firm was not liable.
Joseph Obari, SPDC spokesperson, said that Seibou 2 oil spill, which occurred on Jan. 23, 2015 was adequately contained within SPDC’s right of way and cleaned up.
“The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has issued a certificate to acknowledge SPDC’s compliance with all clean-up standards.
“The JIV was monitored by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment and signed out by all parties established that the spill did not impact any third party.
“Since compensation was not applicable in this instance, SPDC supplied relief materials to communities that used its right of way for other activities.
“A further JIV conducted in neighbouring communities did not establish a subsequent claim by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment of impact to third parties,” Obari said.
However, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), an non-governmental organisation that participated in the JIV, disagreed with the stance of SPDC.
ERA insisted that the impact was evident during the site visit with SPDC and Bayelsa government officials.
Morris Alagoa, Head of ERA’s Field Office in Bayelsa, who was on the JIV team, expressed surprise at the turn of events, “ERA’s field monitoring endeavours reached up to Keme-Ebiama and photos and videos we took confirmed the spread and impact of the equipment failure related seibou spill.
“It is unfortunate that the regulators are so dependent on the oil companies for almost everything that the term ‘regulatory capture’ connoting a connivance of operators and regulators against communities is so real especially in this case.If the regulators are as competent and independent like environmental advocacy groups like ERA, they will swiftly and independently monitor the spill”.
“Through the water current, heavy volumes of crude oil spread to Keme-Ebiama and beyond this craftiness of Shell in trying to evade justice will make peace an illusion in their relationship with communities, host and impacted communities.I speak as ERA/FoEN field monitor, who visited Keme-Ebiama and the one who alerted the State Ministry of Environment via our field report and related photos and as one who went for the JIV in the commissioner’s team”.
“And, he said, that one of the reasons why, to be really effective was to advocate for government to fund the regulatory agencies adequately: Ministry of Environment and NOSDRA. It is shameful that the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment does not have a Rapid Response Unit and they lack functional vehicles and marine crafts.”
“It is hypocritical to engage a workman and deny him the requisite tools and equipment to do the job required of the workman,” Morris said.
The Environmentalist noted that the Niger Delta Government who benefited from the oil derivation funds has not help the oil communities in their quest for environmental rights and development.”They are also not helping matters, shooting themselves on the foot.Otherwise, how can we explain a scenario where upon the 13 per cents accruing to the states cannot jointly set up a laboratory equipped adequately with world class equipment and personnel to assist communities, groups and individuals who are victims of the oil industry?. Is that also a resource control issue that they need the FG to approve?” Morris asked.