By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has raised concerns over the destruction of an oil tanker calling on authorities to urgently delve into investigations.
The destroyed tanker identified as the Tura II (ex-name Ali Riza Bey, IMO 6620462) was captured in an offshore location with stolen crude oil, and after the vessel was seized and the crew detained, was destroyed by a Nigerian military helicopter, a statement by the HOMEF Media/Communication Lead, Kome Odhomor revealed
The statement which revealed there was no valid documentation for the Vessel or the crude oil cargo on board at the time of the arrest quoted the Nigerian National Petroleum Company spokesman, Garba Muhammad who in a statement had revealed that “further investigation into the activities of the vessel revealed that the vessel had been operating in stealth mode for the last 12 years with the last reported location of the Vessel being in Tin Can Port in July 2011.”
However, Executive Director of HOMEF Nnimmo Bassey decried the disregard for the environment and human lives that could be affected in consideration of the manner the vessel was destroyed with no attempt to comply with international best practices and called for urgent investigations.
In his reaction, Mr Bassey noted that while Niger Delta burns on account of gas flaring, oil spills, and other forms of pollution, the burning of seized oil vessels was adding insult to injury.
“The drama that unfolded regarding the seized and bombed vessel is extremely disturbing. Destroying a vessel loaded with 800,000 barrels of crude oil should be taken as a new low in the demonstration of wastefulness on the part of those who should be watching over the nation’s resources.
He further queried that,”…..why would anyone blow up a vessel and dump 800,000 barrels of oil into the environment? If that volume of crude is correct, this must be one of the largest volumes of crude oil spilled in one incident. Our security men are often seen protecting pollution such as gas flares and rotten pipelines and stripping communities of their dignity. In this incident they have demonstrated utter disregard to our constitutional right to a safe environment”.
The incident also confirmed the fact that Nigeria does not know the amount of crude oil that leaves the shores of the country on a daily basis. He added
HOMEF believes the significance of the bombing of the vessel is the indication to the people that authorities care little about their safety and that of the environment.
Bassey further revealed that “One drop of crude oil contaminates 25 litres of water. Imagine what 800,000 barrels of crude oil would do. It means the destruction of fisheries and livelihoods. It also means directly poisoning our people. It is shocking and unacceptable. The entire thing seems to have been staged for some unknown purpose.
How can security agents bomb a crude oil-loaded vessel with Nigerians watching and filming as if they were being entertained? Oil theft is a crime. Blowing up a vessel loaded with crude oil is a higher order of malfeasance. The security forces need some training on environmental and climate crises. What has played out is sickening on many levels. Economic waste. Ecological assault. Security cannot be a valid reason for blowing up the vessel. We need to know why this was done. And urgently too”. he further added
HOMEF charged the Joint Task Force to begin to work with environmental experts and those who are genuinely concerned about the environment to protect lives and livelihoods in consideration of the impact that the destruction will have on the marine ecosystem and the contribution to the pollution that has plagued the region, government agencies must adopt safe ways of handling rogue vessels, including ways of putting them out of commission. Outright destruction of vessels on the high sea is not environmentally acceptable. It is time for
HOMEF sees the destruction as barbaric and a major contribution to the ongoing pollution of our waters. The UNEP report on Ogoni environment and the recently released report on the pollution of Bayelsa Stare should be required reading for our security agencies, NNPC, and all government agencies who should know the dangers of hydrocarbon pollution.
The Group maintained that oil theft in Nigeria is an organized crime and a huge industry with local and international collaborators involved. They further added that the crime has historical roots which have taken different dimensions and are manifesting in several forms, some of which had been covered until recently.
With the recent destruction of a vessel containing stolen crude oil, it is rather shocking to note that the continuous cry of pollution made by Nigerians has evaded the attention of the leadership of the Joint Task Force of the Nigerian Military and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd.