Group drags oil firms to NHRC, demands N34 trillion compensation
The Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Network has taken eight oil companies operating in the state before the National Human Rights Commission special investigation panel, demanding N34 trillion as compensation for oil spills.
The oil companies are: ExxonMobil; Shell Petroleum Development Company; Seven Exploration and Production Energy; Total E&P; Addax Petroleum; Universal Energy; Mono-Pulo, and Oriental Energy.
The group in a petition filed at the NHRC investigation panel sitting at the Federal High Court, Uyo and endorsed with a memoranda from paramount rulers of the 31 council areas of the state, alleged that, these companies flared gas at 33 points, emitted spills into the state waterways, which resulted in effluence to flowing rivers and streams across the state.
They also filed a case at the NHRC against a construction firm, JuliusBerger, for causing death of a boy who fell into its burrow pit at Itam in Itu council area of the state.The group, which presented its claims before the Mrs. Oti Ovrawah-led special investigation panel on oil spills and environmental pollution yesterday was also made up of farmers and fishermen.
They expressed anger over cases of hydrocarbon pollution with harmful effects on the aquatic lives and ecosystem, which impacted, negatively on the livelihood of the people.
These memoranda, highlighted cases of oil spillages between 1998 to 2015, some of which, they said, lasted beyond two weeks, alleging that some of these spillages originated from ExxonMobil platforms and Shell corked oil wells.
Counsel to ExxonMobil, ADDAX, Shell Petroleum Seven Exploration and Production Energy, among others who appeared before the panel complained of insufficient time after service of notice and therefore requested for time to get prepared to defend themselves as penalties placed on some of the companies were beyond their assets.
In her reaction, Mrs. Ovrawah appealed to defense counsel to avoid excuses that might truncate the progress of the panel, noting that,
the panel has limited time to attend to all cases and petitions.
Having established that defendants were all served notice before 17th of June, she maintained that the panel had to go ahead as there was no need for too much technicality or fear as with a normal court.
“There is time limit within which the panel is to stay, and having agreed with the issue of service, the complainant has to be allowed to state its case so that by next sitting the burden would have been lessened. To tackle restiveness in the affected areas the Federal Government set up this panel. Application for adjournment would amount to miscarriage of the case,” she said.
Earlier, the President Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Network, Dr. Ufot Phension, noted that, in Mbo council area, where many oil and gas companies operate, they allowed the community to stink owing to neglected cases of spills and other harmful effects of exploration.
“Mbo hosts so many oil companies in the state; it should have been well catered for, but it stinks, no good road, they experience vibration on daily basis, oil companies are shooting explosives on daily basis,” he said.