Group Drags Mobil, Shell, Julius Berger, Six Others To Rights Commission | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Group Drags Mobil, Shell, Julius Berger, Six Others To Rights Commission

Oil Spill
Posted: Jun 27, 2016 at 6:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

…Demands N34trn For Environmental Pollution


Idongesit Ashameri

Uyo – A group, Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Network (AKIPCON), at the weekend dragged eight oil/gas companies and a construction company to the special investigation panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission over decades of neglected oil spills and environmental pollution in Akwa Ibom State.

A petition by the group indicates that the environment in Akwa Ibom State has been polluted by the activities of oil companies due to decades of oil spillages which have occurred onshore and on the Atlantic Ocean.

The other activities that have affected the environment in the state are gas flaring by ExxonMobil at 33 points across the state; toxic waste dumping through defecation into the ocean by oil companies with offshore platforms, the group noted.

These incidents, according to the group, have been neglected without necessary clean-up.

The accused companies included ExxonMobil, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Seven Exploration and Production Energy, Total E&P, ADDAX, Universal Energy, Mono-Pulo, Oriental Energy and Julius Berger.

The group is demanding a compensation of N34 trillion for various forms of pollution and negative impacts on the people and the environment.

Presenting its claims before the Mrs. Oti Ovrawah-led special investigation panel on oil spills and environmental pollution, sitting at the Federal High Court, Uyo, the group made up of farmers and fishermen also complained about cases of hydro-carbon pollution with harmful effects on the aquatic lives and ecosystem and on the livelihood of the people.

The petition from the group, backed up by memoranda from paramount rulers of the 31 local government areas of the state, highlighted several cases of oil spillages between 1998 and 2015, some of which lasted beyond two weeks.

Others took place at some ExxonMobil platforms and Shell corked oil wells without proper cleanup, the group noted.

According to the petition, “ExxonMobil started operations in Akwa Ibom State in the 1970s, and there have been spills without payment of compensation.

“This usually affects fishing nets, outboard engines of various horse powers.

“The company usually washes their town farms using water and chemicals which are later emptied into the river.

“This activity has harmful effect on those who live in the creeks because it affects their only source of drinking water; that is why if you go to Ibeno, a bucket of drinking water is N300.

“The pollution extends beyond take off points, farmlands are polluted, destroying crops, flared gases are destroying roof tops because of acid rains.

“The people have suffered loss of good air and water quality, there is destruction of aquatic lives and ecosystem, and life span of the people of the areas has been severely affected.”

Citing Mbo local government area of Akwa Ibom State where many oil and gas companies operate for instance, the president general of AKIPCON, Dr Ufot Phenson, decried that such community which would have been well catered for has been allowed to stink due to neglected cases of spills and other harmful effects of ?exploration.

“Mbo hosts so many oil companies in the state, it should have been well catered for, but it is a stink; no good road, they experience vibration on a daily basis, oil companies are shooting explosives everyday”, he noted.

While expressing hope that the commission will help the state to achieve a better environment to satisfy many years of yearning and petition over the abuse of human lives and environment, he, however, challenged the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, to rise to the protection of the state and its people by causing oil/gas and construction companies operating within the state to take full responsibility of their actions.

Counsel to ExxonMobil, ADDAX, Shell Petroleum, Seven Exploration and Production Energy and others, who appeared before the panel, complained of insufficient time after service of notice and therefore requested time to get prepared to defend themselves.

They argued that penalties put on some of the companies were beyond their assets and could liquidate the companies.

In her reaction, the chairperson of the panel, Mrs Oti Ovrawah, appealed to defence counsel to avoid excuses which may truncate the progress of the panel, noting that the panel had limited time to attend to all cases and petitions.

Having established that defendants were all served notice before June 17, she maintained that the panel had to go ahead as there was no need for too much technicality or fear as it is with a normal court.

She said: “There is time limit within which the panel is to stay, and having agreed with the issue of service, the complainant has to be allowed to state its case so that by next sitting the burden would have been lessened.

“To tackle restiveness in the affected areas, the Federal Government set up this panel; application for adjournment would amount to miscarriage of the case.”