December 31, 2019

Oil Spill: Bayelsa community grumbles over purported inappropriate compensation

Oil Spill: Bayelsa community grumbles over purported inappropriate compensation

…Accuses oil firm, NOSDRA of shortchanging villagers; SPDC denies allegation

By Samuel Oyadongha

INDIGENES of seaside settlement of Aghoro I, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have accused Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC, of frustrating the community’s efforts to get suitable compensation, following  a major oil spill that devastated the area, last year.

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The community slammed the oil firm for arbitrarily determining the compensation figure for the May 17, 2018 spill, which ravaged the area.

Spokesperson of SPDC, Mr. Michael Adande, however, deflated the allegation, saying the oil firm acted with industry stakeholders to arrive at the compensation for the oil leak.

NDV learned that a Joint Investigation Visit, JIV,  report of the incident had concluded that the leak on the pipeline at three spots were caused by equipment failure and discharged some 1,114 barrels of crude oil into the environment.

Oil firm colludes with illegal community leaders — Otigha

A community leader and member of the Community Development Committee (CDC) in Aghoro 1, Mr Friday Otigha, said the N34m offered by SPDC was unacceptable and had no bearing with the impact assessment report.

He lamented that despite a recommendation of N3.68 billion by the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), SPDC proposed a paltry N34 million. Otigha alleged that the oil firm connived with some unauthorized community leaders to foist the arbitrarily determined compensation, which fell short of NOSDRA compensation rates on the community.

He recalled that the oil leak was reported on May 17, but the joint visit could not be immediately conducted until June 23, a development that worsened the adverse impact of the spill on the predominantly fishing community.

According to him, hundreds of impacted fishermen thrown out of fishing by the incident were disappointed at the turn of events, as they expected SPDC to act in line with international best practices. He urged the federal government to prevail on SPDC to retrace its steps and resolve the compensation in line with existing oil spill compensation guidelines set by the regulators.

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Consultant queries NOSDRA’s role

Also, Suveyor Furoebi Akene, consultant to the community, decried what he described as NOSDRA’s shoddy handling of the issue, accusing it of colluding with multinational companies “to destroy our environment.”

He said: “When the government regulatory agencies collaborate with multinational oil companies to destroy our environment, what do we expect? The outcome of a meeting between NOSDRA, SPDC and  impacted communities of the oil spill that occurred around the Aghoro section of the trans Ramos Pipeline on the 17th of May 2018,  organized by NOSDRA in the conference room of the Director General  is appalling.”

“NOSDRA as a regulation Agency that is supposed to be fair to all concerned passed a verdict that even the Supreme Court of Nigeria has not passed to the consternation of all the experts that represented the impacted communities and the community members as well.

Legal combat

“The verdict as pronounced by the DG/CE of NOSDRA said, “Impacted communities of oil spill are not entitled to ecological damages”. By the provision of the law establishing NOSDRA, the agency is supposed to have a well-equipped laboratory for investigation and analysis of situation of the impact of our environment, but unfortunately, they do not have any. They hired private consultants and from their reports, it show clear compromise of professional standard, which professionals from the impacted communities strongly rejected.

“This is likely to draw a legal battle line between NOSDRA and SPDC on one side versus the impacted communities on the other side. Only God knows how long the legal battle will take and whether they will get justice or not no one can tell,” he asserted.

SPDC had since paid reasonable compensation – Adande

Reacting to the allegations, spokesperson of SPDC, Mr Michael Adande, insisted that the oil firm acted with industry stakeholders to arrive at the compensation for the oil leak, but declined to state the exact amount paid to victims of the spill. “The SPDC conducts a comprehensive damage assessment and enumeration exercise with active participation of other members of the Joint Investigation Visit Team, especially the impacted claimants.

“We also use geometrics’ map to establish the exact area of impact and extent within SPDC’s Right of Way or third party area and the degree of impact to arrive at a fair compensation value.

“In the case of the regrettable incident in Aghoro ,  Bayelsa state and Odimodi in Delta state in 2018, SPDC has paid the agreed compensation to the affected persons and communities.

“The NOSDRA Post-Impact Assessment report, however, included N2.74 billion as ‘ecological damage assessment’ for environmental restoration and not as compensation.

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“SPDC takes responsibility for clean-up, remediation and restoration.” Adande said.