Environmental Rights Action, ERA, a Non-Governmental Organization, has called out the governments of Niger Delta States for improper utilization of the 13% revenue accruable to oil producing states from the federation account, which is intended to be used for developmental projects in the state.
The criticism is following a brewing rift between Ogboinbiri riverine community of Bayelsa State and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, due to an oil leak into the Ogboinbiri River in 2015.
SPDC had on March 5, 2015 confirmed that its underwater oil pipeline leaked some 550 barrels of crude into the River.
The oil company said the leak occurred in January 23, 2015 and a Joint Investigation, JIV, report had revealed that the leakage was caused by equipment failure due to a ruptured pipeline.
However, when the community wrote to SPDC to inquire why the compensation for the oil spill was being delayed, the oil company replied that it had effectively cleaned up the spill and therefore was not liable for any compensation.
In a response made available to newsmen on Thursday, Spokesman of SPDC, Joseph Obari, said that the oil spill “was adequately contained within SPDC’s right of way and cleaned up.”
“The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has issued a certificate to acknowledge SPDC’s compliance with all clean-up standards,” Obari stated.
“The JIV which was monitored by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment and signed out by all parties established that the spill did not impact any third party.
“Since compensation was not applicable in this instance, SPDC supplied relief materials to communities that used its right of way for other activities.
“A further JIV conducted in neighbouring communities did not establish a subsequent claim by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment of impact to third parties,” the spokesman said.
But reacting to the response, Morris Alagoa, ERA’s Head of Field office in Bayelsa state, disagreed with the stance of SPDC.
Alagoa said that his organization was part of the Joint Investigation, JIV, alongside representatives from the oil company and the Bayelsa State government.
He said: “ERA’s field monitoring endeavours reached up to Keme-Ebiama and photos and videos we took confirmed the spread and impact of the equipment failure related to seibou spill.
“Through the water current, heavy volumes of crude oil spread to Keme-Ebiama.”
The environmental activist noted that “this craftiness of Shell in trying to evade justice will make peace an illusion in their relationship with communities, host and impacted communities.”
Alagoa crticised the Bayelsa State government for the lack of adequate human and material resources needed to curb situations such as this.
“It is shameful that the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment does not have a Rapid Response Unit and they lack functional vehicles and marine crafts.
“It is hypocritical to engage a workman and deny him the requisite tools and equipment to do the job required of the workman,” he said.
The environmental activist blamed the governments of the various Niger Delta states who benefit from the oil derivation funds and yet do not help oil communities in their quest for environmental rights and development.
Alagoa said: “They are also not helping matters, shooting themselves on the foot.
“Otherwise, how can we explain a scenario where upon the 13 per cents accruing to the states cannot jointly set up a laboratory equipped adequately with world class equipment and personnel to assist communities, groups and individuals who are victims of the oil industry?
“Is that also a resource control issue that they need the FG to approve?” Morris queried.