Panic grips Bayelsa communities over Shell oil spill | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Panic grips Bayelsa communities over Shell oil spill

Posted: Apr 16, 2015 at 12:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

•Tambuwal blames financial leakages on oil theft

By Igoniko Oduma Correspondent (Yenagoa) and By David Odama (Abuja)


There was palpable fear in the early hours of Wednesday, when residents of Otuasega, Imirngi and other neighbouring communities of Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa reported noticing an oil leak at Kolo Creek Manifold, belonging to  Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

President Goodluck Jonathan is from Otuoke, also in Ogbia LGA, a town which host the Federal University.

The panic-stricken residents lamented that as a result of the leak, crude is discharging into the environment.

Anthony Okpu, a resident of the community told Daily Independent: “The oil leaking from a crude trunk line connecting the Kolo Creek fields to SPDC’s pipeline network has  flown into the communities and devastated farmlands and vegetation in the area.

“We do not know exactly when the oil leak started, but this morning we saw crude leaking from the pipeline into the road and when we got there soldiers had already cordoned off the whole area.

“They do not allow us to get near to find out the possible cause of the leak on the pipeline. We woke up this early morning to see this in our community.

“I believe that the soldiers must have reported the incident so that they can shut down the pipeline crude feed to forestall further damage to the environment, but oil is still gushing out of the line”, he added.

Our correspondent, who visited the site of impact at 1:45pm on Wednesday, observed that the soldiers were deployed at the instance of Shell to cordon off the Edepie-Imiringi Road and the Bayelsa Palm-Elebele Road, two major routes leading to the affected area, miles away from the leak site.

The soldiers used security patrol vans marked “Army Escort” to block the roads on both axis to prevent vehicles and tricycles from going to the impacted communities.

Shell’s spokesperson in Port Harcourt, Joseph Obari, assured Daily Independent  in a telephone interview Wednesday that the company would react to the incident  in due course.

The state Ministry of Environment had yet to issue a statement on the oil leak as at press time on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has blamed the slow growth of the Nigerian economy on misuse of public revenue and crude oil theft, describing them as acts of economic sabotage.

Speaking at the public hearing on the alleged diversion of crude oil deposit at Stubbs Creeks marginal field by Universal Energy Resort Limited, he regretted that crude oil diversion, bunkering and vandalism continue to constitute major financial leakages and economic sabotage.

Tambuwal, who was only last Saturday elected governor of Sokoto State, was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Isiaka Muhammed Bawa, further regretted the exploitation of the oil communities which also suffers from environmental degradation, apart from being deprived of their means of livelihood.

The Speaker noted that although large proceeds of the product are obtained from the domestic and export sales, there is no effect on economic growth, productivity and just as it does not impact positivitely on the people.

According to him, there is need to evaluate the relative impact of the crude oil diversion in the economy with a view to appropriately harnessing the product to boost economic development and generate infrastructural growth.

“We firmly committed ourselves to the yearnings and aspiration of the Nigerian people by assiduously pursuing as our agenda the development objectives that will make for enduring economic development and institutional reform,” he said.

The Speaker said the investigative hearing is in the discharge of the House’s constitutional mandate as enshrined in section 88 and 89 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, as amended.

Chairman of the panel, Friday Itula assured that the panel would be fair to all and ensure that it extant laws on crude exploration would be relied upon throughout the proceedings.

Meanwhile, at the hearing, both the Mbo Development Youth and the Council of Elders made presentations alleging that officials of Universal Energy Resource Limited, were on three occasions caught diverting crude oil. But Engr. Steve Okoko, the company’s Chief Operation Officer denied the allegation.

Amnesty International had last month lampooned Shell and Italian oil giant- ENI over what it called “lack of commitment” to tackling incessant oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

“Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian multinational oil giant ENI have admitted to more than 550 oil spills in the Niger Delta last year, according to an Amnesty International analysis of the companies’ latest figures,” the rights group said in a Friday statement.

“By contrast, on average, there were only 10 spills a year across the whole of Europe between 1971 and 2011,” AI noted.

Amnesty said although Shell reported 204 Niger Delta spills in 2014 while ENI, which operates in a smaller area, reported a staggering 349 spills, their “poor” recording system points at even grimmer picture of the situation.

“These (oil spill) figures are seriously alarming. ENI has clearly lost control over its operations in the Niger Delta. And despite all its promises, Shell has made no progress on tackling oil spills,” Amnesty’s Global Issues Director Audrey Gaughran said.

“In any other country, this would be a national emergency. In Nigeria it appears to be standard operating procedure for the oil industry. The human cost is horrific – people living with pollution every day of their lives.”