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Our farms destroyed by Shell oil spill, communities allege

By Oluwakemi Dauda, Jan 10, 2012

Some communities in Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states have alleged the destruction of their farms and land in the oil spill at Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO). Over 4,000 barrels of oil were spilled from Shell’s Bonga facility.

Describing the spill as the worst in the country since 1998, the communities, in a letter, called on Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Government to assist their people, whose waters, have been polluted.

But when The Nation contacted the image maker of Shell, Mr Precious Okolobo on Saturday night, he said Shell is waiting for the report of the sample taken to the United States (US) to determine the impact of the spill on the shore, adding that his organisation is doing everything possible to clean up the environment.

“We have taken a sample of the oil in the beach to the United States. Not until the result is out, nobody is expected to talk of compensation. The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has even confirmed that there was no way the spill could have got to Akwa Ibom State,” Okolobo said.

But in the petition sent to NIMASA, The Nation gathered that the affected communities complained that their source of livelihood, especially fishing, was affected by the impact of the oil spill.

The affected communities which included the people of Age and Oroibiri 1 and 2, according to sources at NIMASA, said the letter became necessary because Shell’s response to the spill fell short of national and international standards.They urged NIMASA to ensure that Shell pays for devastating their environment and the ecosystem.

The communities, according to the sources, also accused Shell of embarking on propaganda while they described the spill as massive that has affected birds, vegetation and other aquatic creatures in their domain.

Shell, the communities alleged, instead of addressing the problem embarked on propaganda to shift responsibility. This, the community insisted, is a diversionary tactic and urged Shell to make the name of the suspected third party public if it has any.

The people of the affected areas, have vowed to hold Shell responsible for anything that happens to them and their environment if it fails to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a third party was involved.

The communities, the sources said, are therefore, calling on the Federal Government, the National Assembly and NIMASA to send a delegation, which should include maritime reporters to the area for an on-the-spot assessment of the total devastation of their waters and their areas.

When contacted, a senior official of NIMASA confirmed the petition and urged Shell to be alive to its responsibilities by cleaning the waters and paying compensation to the affected communities and making remediation in line with national and international standards.

No national or multinational company, such as Shell, the official said, can do what the oil giant has done in the country in terms of environmental depredation and behave as if nothing happens.

When the spill was announced, NIMASA, the official said, made a sea and radio broadcast to all mariners and issued a marine notice in one of the daily newspapers to the public on the spill to curtail the spread to other areas, but Shell, he alleged, failed to act promptly.

Also, the Deputy General Manager, Public Affairs, NIMASA, Hajia Lami Tumaka, said so many members of the affected communities have come to their offices in Port Harcourt and Lagos, urging the agency to come to their aid.

“Yes, the people of the affected communities have contacted our offices and the director-general has allayed their fears and assured them of positive response to their yearning to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the area.”

The agency, she said, would enforce global maritime watchdog conventions as it relates to the management of the nation’s marine environment in this case.

On the discovery made by the team sent to the area by NIMASA, the image maker said: “As our technical crew approached these communities, the first thing that greeted them was the sight of coastline demarcated by oil leak and petroleum fumes. The community informed us that the spill drifted to the location on December 21, 2011.

‘‘For instance, at Age community, it was discovered that the oil spill affected its community coastline. At Orobiri One and Two, the aquatic environment was devastated by the spill impact. Water samples are collected from these communities. We were informed by these communities that other government officials and state personnel had earlier visited the communities.”

SOURCE ARTICLE

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