…Agip, community bicker over cleanup, compensation claims
By Emem Idio
APOI—NINE months after a major massive oil spill along the Nigerian Agip Clough Creek/Tebidaba 10” pipeline was recorded in Apoi cmmmunuty in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, community leaders and oficials of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, are yet to amicably resolve the matter, with claims and counter-claims by both parties.
While the community folks led by the Chairman of Apoi Council of Chiefs, Chief Kemela Godspower insists that no cleanup has been effected at the impacted sites and compensation paid, Agip officials and contractors, however, claim that it has since carried out cleanup exercise and compensation paid to the community.
Community allegedly factionalised
It was alledged that there is a set of Apoi people residing outside the community but the company recognises and deals with the community leaders when it comes to such matters.
During a follow up visit to Agip spill impacted environment at Apoi by Environmental Rights Action, ERA / Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FoEN, and newsmen, it was a tale of pain and allegations of neglect by the company according to the community leaders.
The community leaders noted that the Joint Investigation Visit, JIV, report indicates that the spill was caused by corrosion and volume of spilled crude oil recorded as 180 barrels (124 barrels recovered).
Speaking about challenges the community is contending with and the oil spill, Chairman of Apoi Council of Chiefs, Chief Kemela Godspower said: “The oil multinationals have been polluting our only source of drinking water, from the Ogboinbiri environment and, the most recent incident from Agip pipeline here in Apoi.
“The Agip spill was caused by corrosion at a 6 0’clock point; right under the pipe. That pipe was laid since 1980 and the company has not changed it till date. Yet, Agip was arguing with us until the matter went to Government House. It was the Deputy Governor who prevailed on Agip before they came and clamped the ruptured spot.
“It was a tug of war before we were able to get the JIV from them. They initially did not want to give us our copy. But, up till now no compensation has been paid by the comany, for individual and general community damage. We are still waiting on them to come and pay us but they are not forthcoming. We want the state government to come to our assistance, just as we need the company to come and do the needful to help us too; since we are their landlords.
Corroborating Chief Godspower’s claims, Mr Tobin Seigha, the Chief Security Officer, CSO, of Apoi said an equipment failure oil spill was traced to a pipeline in July, last year.
“Apoi community is sustained by the environment, including this oil spill impacted environment in terms of livelihood activities like logging, hunting, fishing, farming, herbs, drinking water, etc. All we are pleading is that, Agip should return to the impacted environment and do proper cleanup. We are also pleading with the state government to look into this matter.
“Normally, the JIV report ought to have been signed at the site of incident. But, these people (Agip) argued with us (Apoi community). The argument dragged on until we were invited to the Bayelsa State Government House. It was at the Government House that the JIV report was finally signed under serious pressure. Agip then told us that after clamping, they will return the following week for cleanup. But since that statement was made till date, they haven’t come here for cleanup since 2017 till date.
“The only day we saw someone visiting the environment, it was an Agip contractor. He said he was the contractor to do the cleanup. Before we knew it, this contractor with some persons from Apoi living in Yenagoa went to the spill site in the name of cleanup without seeing the leadership of the community.
“The community questioned the unofficial manner of going about it; without following due process. When the team was asked to meet the community leadership for proper understanding before any work is done at the site, the contractor told the community folks that already, related issues have been agreed upon with some Apoi indigenes outside the community.”
Agip, in their reaction said there are factions in the community owing to intracommunity clashes in the community, insisiting that they were dealing with one of the community factions.
Agip General Manager, District GMD, Mr. Marco Rodondi in his response obtained by NDV stated: “As you are aware, this spill caused us a lot of headaches due to clashes between two factions that impeded the access to site and severally delayed repair and cleanup operations.
“We commenced cleanup of the spill with an initial recovery phase, right after the leak by recovering as much as possible of free oil. The second phase of the cleanup activity, being carried out by Fakpo Services (recommended by community, Faction A), was stopped several times by Faction B. Faction B of the community was insisting that the contract be awarded to a contractor that did not have the requisite regulatory certification for the provision of oil spill cleanup services.
“This substantially delayed further cleanup effort. We reported this problem to the regulatory agencies. Following further engagement with the community, Fakpo was eventually allowed to commence the cleanup. We carried out a joint monitoring of the cleanup site with government regulatory agencies and the community representatives including Vice-Chairman of the community on Mach 28, 2018 and the contractor is on site to conclude the cleanup.
“We also wish to inform you that compensation has been paid to the community through a firm whom they donated a power of attorney for the payment. The payment was made in February of this year. Therefore, we totally reject this false allegation regarding the payment.”
The Agip contractor, Chief Israel, when contacted on why the cleanup has not been carried out said: “That is not true, we have done the cleanup job.”