Oil Spill: Bayelsa community threatens showdown with SPDC over dispute damage claims

October 21, 2020
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The Paramount Ruler, Indigenes of the Ikarama Community of Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), has threatened a showdown with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over the disputes on the cause of the crude oil spillage from the Adibawa-Okordia delivery line in the area.

While the indigenes of the Ikarama Community argue that they have been tagged the community with the highest frequency of oil spillages in Bayelsa mostly due to equipment failures and corrosion, the position of SPDC on alleged third party interference, despite verifiable evidence from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is provocative and vexatious.

The Paramount Ruler of the Community, Chief Lamye Herbert Alfred, and owners of properties impacted by the crude oil spillage in Ikarama Community told newsmen in Yenagoa that after series of letters to the management of the SPDC for compensation and remediation failed, they have resolved to shut down the Shell facility in the area.

The stakeholders made their position known on Wednesday in a Press conference in Yenagoa, with the theme”Resisting Regulatory Capture”.

They argued that SPDC does not have the right as operators to dictate the tone, because they can’t regulate themselves.

In his speech, the Head, Bayelsa Office of the ERA/FoEN, Comrade Morris Alagoa, said the safe environment advocacy group decided to intervene in the ongoing Ikarama community and SPDC dispute to discourage any attempts at regulatory capture.

“One of the main areas of disagreement between stakeholders in the oil industry is the cause of the spill as a lot depends on it. While there is nothing wrong in any stakeholder contesting whatever is declared as the cause of the spill, there are certain things to be considered in arriving at declaring the cause.”

“In the Nigeria oil industry, regulators are supposed to be referees. They are the NOSDRA and the State Ministries of Environment. From our record, the IKARAMA community is the community with the highest frequency of documented oil spills, with most of the spills declared officially as caused by the third party interference by the regulators. However, while accusing fingers are also pointed at the SPDC staff/contractors as instigating some of the spills. There have been few officially documented cases of equipment failure either caused by corrosion and faulty valves.”

He also noted that the oil spill incident at the SPDC owned Adibawa-Okordia delivery line on the 12th of November, 2011 was one of the clear cases of corrosion.

”The current spill incident in contention occurred in November 2019 as flood of that year was receding. As at the time the spill was discovered, accessibility was only via canoe and the height of floodwater was at the chest level for an adult. Besides, the fact that the spill was discovered at 6’o’clock point of the pipe, after evacuation in the presence of shell regulators, community folks and soldiers provoked the people when SPDC claimed the spill was caused by the third party as against the community position of equipment failure.”

The Youth Leader of the Ikarama Community, Comrade Wada Benjamin, while faulting the alleged adoption of Divide and rule tactics by the management of the SPDC, claimed that the current spill under contention destroyed over 1,000 hectares of lands, farms, ponds and lakes within the community, “the spill destroyed large hectares of lands, farms, fishing nets and others in the community”

While the representative of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in the State, Comrade David-West, declared support to the community’s decision to embark on mass action against the SPDC, a former Director, Petroleum Pollution in the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, Engr. J.A.Banks, however, called on the indigenes of the Ikarama community to tow the part of peaceful resolution of the dispute and seek the option of prevailing on the state government to intervene instead of shutting down the SPDC production line in the area.

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