Rivers: Worries over conflicting reports on oil spill
Environmentalist, Communities Warn Against Looming Crisis
Three weeks after fresh oil spills were detected in two separate sites in Eteo and Aleto communities, Eleme Local Council of Rivers State, crisis seems to be brewing due to failure of the National Oil Spill Detection Agency (NOSDRA) to come up with an integrated report with other members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIV).
The Guardian learnt that there were conflicting observations from NOSDRA, the State Ministry of Environment, community members and other stakeholders in the JIV team.
It was also learnt that the delay in releasing the report was due to the refusal of the communities involved to sign the available report due to the divergences.
Recall that the two spills, which occurred on June 18 and 21 respectively, came from facilities operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL). The incident reportedly rendered over 300 registered fishermen jobless in the area as the water and farmlands were polluted. While no investigation has been carried out at the Eteo spill site, Aleto’s findings are pending due to conflicting remarks.
A community source, who spoke in confidence, disclosed that NOSDRA’s earlier report noted that there was no third party interference at the facility, but that a leakage was detected, which could be traced to equipment failure.
The report affirmed the observation of Oil Watch Africa that companies in Nigeria were flippant towards ensuring that their equipment are in good working conditions.
Chairman of Aleto community, Alali Amaechi, blamed the delay in remediating the area on conflicting findings from the joint investigative report, saying the community was not happy with the way NOSDRA was handling the incident.
He said: “For now, the JIV is still inconclusive because the investigators have different opinions. NOSDRA has a different report, the State Ministry of Environment has a different report and the community has a different view on the incident. So, when they asked the community to sign the report, they refused. The whole thing has stagnated three weeks after.”
When contacted, the Zonal Director of NOSDRA, Ime Elkanem, told The Guardian that he couldn’t speak outside official hours.
He said: “Madam thank you for calling on a weekend, I have my time. I used to book appointments. Today is weekend; call during official hours, call on Monday. This is weekend.”
However, an environmental activist, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said it was unfortunate on the part of NOSDRA to delay the whole process, warning that the sad development may brew crisis if not swiftly handled.
He said the agency ought to have quickly carried out a joint investigation within the first week in line with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to ascertain the cause of the spill, move in and clamp the leakages, and engage the communities in all the steps taken.
Fynface frowned that officials suspected to be from the NNPCL have gone to Etoe community to fix the damaged oil pipelines without the consent of community stakeholders and the conduct of proper investigations.
He said: “The NNPCL has gone to the community and clamped the spilled point without the knowledge of some members of the community. The NNPCL has done this without the joint investigation visit report that was supposed to be carried out by NOSDRA and other stakeholders.
“It is worrisome because some stakeholders are pointing accusing fingers at each other because they believe that before the NNPCL could penetrate the community to carry out the clamping of the spill point that was reported, they should have seen one or two members of the community and work with them.”
Meanwhile, a renowned environmentalist, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, has tasked the government and industry regulators to ensure accountability by offending parties, proper clean-up of polluted lands and payment of compensation to victims for damages suffered.
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