May 12, 2015

Farmers take Shell to court over oil spill impact in Bayelsa

Farmers take Shell to court over oil spill impact in Bayelsa

Oil spill in the river

By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—Farmers impacted by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Kolo Creek oil fields spill in Otuasega, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, have gone to court over the April 15, 2015 spill, which polluted their farms.

According to the farmers, they were excluded from a Joint Investigation Visit to probe the impact of the spill despite their attempt to draw the attention of the team to their impacted farms.

A fish farmer, Mr. Aku Asei, whose three ponds were impacted, said the affected farmers numbering over 50 resolved to take legal action over the incident in the wake of the alleged claim of sabotage by Shell.

“This is a clear case of the powerful and rich oil firm against the weak and poor farmers. They are claiming that the spill was caused by sabotage and abandoned the polluted environment. The regulations which they relied on to absolve themselves clearly stated that the operator of the field where pollution occurs must clean up the site irrespective of the cause but SPDC officials declined to capture the farms as impacted areas.

“We have always believed that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, and we shall tell the court that the spill was as a result of negligence by SPDC surveillance contractors deployed to guard the facility.

“We have decided not to resort to self help but to seek justice in court and we are appealing to public interest organisations to come to our aid as we are currently counting our losses,” Aseimo lamented.

The farmers, made up of fish farmers, banana and plantain plantation owners in the area also appealed to Bayelsa State Government to assist them in prevailing on the oil firm to clean up the areas and pay compensation to them.

Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Iniruo Wills, had said the state government would verify the reported exclusion of impacted sites from the ongoing clean up.

“We have to look at the information and verify it and if it is true that the impacted area was larger than what was originally captured, we shall find a way of addressing those concerns,” he said.

All parties have a duty to make sure that they are included, nobody can hide under the cover of technicalities to say that a fact that is reality will not be captured.

“We have to look at it and address it one way or the other even if it means paying another visit, another JIV to expand the scope, we cannot leave those people outside the net of justice,” he said.