•Crude oil still floating on river, fishermen stranded, women can’t go to farm
•No cleanup, relief materials until date; HOSTCOM vows to take legal action
By Emem Idio
FOUR months after a major oil leak was reported along the Tedibaba-Brass trunk line operated by the Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, at Lasukugbene community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, the people have lashed out at the multinational oil company and Bayelsa State Government for allegedly abandoning the community.
Monarch, CDC chair yell
Paramount ruler of the community, HRH Chief Farnen Akinaka, and the Community Development Committee, CDC, Chairman, Mr. Innocent Oputa, who spoke to NDV during a visit to the community, expressed sadness that since the major spill was reported on February 3, NAOC has neither carried out cleanup at the spill site nor sent relief materials to the people despite the fact that the leakage was caused by equipment failure.
The Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, which got involved through the leadership of the community, has vowed to drag NAOC to court to demand compensation, clean-up, remediation and other related issues.
HRH Akinaka asserted: “Since this spill occurred, my people have been suffering, there is nothing whatsoever in terms of relief materials sent to this community either by Agip or the Bayelsa State Government.
“Our people are getting sick, our fishermen can no longer fish and our women can no longer go to the farm because the heavy presence of crude oil have destroyed their farms. We are appealing for urgent intervention from the authorities. They should come to our aid.”
Govt, Agip unresponsive — Zion, resident
A stakeholder in the community, Mr. Kiente Zion, said it was shameful and insensitive for the state government and Agip to treat the Lasukugbene oil spill with levity in spite of the health and environmental hazards that the spill have exposed the people of the community to, describing purported clampdown of the oil spill site as a scam.
“It is awful when you look at things like this, since February 3 when this spill was reported because we do not know the actual time it occurred, but community folks discovered it on February 3, nothing has been done for the people concerning this spill.
“The best that NAOC has done is to come and clamp down the spill and till now, Agip has not come to the community to identify with the people, not even the state government and it is painful that we have a system that does not care about the people. If the government does not identify with the people, what will the multinational company do?
“The purported cleanup is a scam because by procedural standards, you are not supposed to do cleanup with relief materials to the affected community and Agip are good in doing things like this because the government allows them.
“If this thing has happened in the governor’s place, it would not have been like this, I tell you the spill in Lasukugbene community cannot be equated to the Nembe Santa Barbara Aiteo spill in magnitude but up till now, not even a bag of sachet water has been given to the people of Lasukugbene.
“The state government first should do the needful and take responsibility followed by NAOC, the environment has been destroyed and the people are also the environment.”
It’s very pathetic – Morris, ERA program manager
In his remarks, Programme Manager, Environmental Rights Action, ERA, and Head of the Niger- Delta Resource Centre, Yenagoa, Alagoa Morris, who carried out a follow-up visit to the spill site, recently, told NDV: “It is very pathetic and that is why we continue to say that our people are being shortchanged while some people are smiling to the bank from the petrodollars.
“We have come today to see things for ourselves and we will continue to monitor the environment and say things as they are. If as we have come we saw that this black side of the bank of the river and creek has been cleared of the heavily impacted vegetation and their remains, we will say something has been done but as it has not been done, crude oil is still flowing on the river.
“I want to call on NAOC to ensure that they come back to the spill site and clean the entire stretch of polluted environment, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment should ensure that the right thing is done as regulators.
“Bayelsa State Government also needs to empathize with the victims of this oil industry-induced pollution,” he added.