For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

Oil Spillage: Group Berates Shell  Over Slow Clean-up in Bayelsa

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria have expressed shock at  Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for its slow response to multiple crude oil spills that have rocked the Diebu Creek in Peremabiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

In a statement by the Groups Communication’s Officer, Elvira Jordan, it stated that “ERA/FoEN position comes in the light of a field visit by its team led by Programme Manager Niger Delta Resource Center, Comrade Alagoa Morris with a team of newsmen, on the 11th of October, 2023, following a save-a-soul call from the community about multiple spills along the Diebu creek.

The statement added that Prior to the field visit, the community had informed ERA/FoEN that Shell said a Joint Investigation Team [JIT] was to visit the site of the spill but failed to keep to the date promised; including the very date ERA/FoEN visited.  After two unkempt Joint Investigation Visits [JIV], the JIV only took place a day after the field visit by ERA/FoEN with Shell-sponsored news statements that attributed one of the spills to equipment failure and the other tagged inconclusive.

Speaking to the team, the youth president of the community, Benjamin Ebinibo expressed his dissatisfaction over the conduct of Shell and their response to spill issues. According to him, the people of Peremabiri are not known for sabotaging crude oil pipelines and so the leak must have been from faulty Shell equipment.

Assistant Women Leader of Peremabiri, Favour Morgan while describing the plight of the women of the community, lamented over the reoccurring spills in their community, and how it has destroyed their environment and collapsed fishing and farming activities, which is their primary source of livelihood.  

“Our women who are fishing and farming are unhappy with what is happening to our land and water. This is our means of livelihood. Our traps for fish and crayfish have been affected by the crude oil. Even our fishing nets no longer catch fish, our plantain and cassava farms too have been affected by the oil spill.”

She called on Shell to rise up to their responsibilities, with a warning from the women who have vowed to take action against Shell if the company is not proactive with their response to oil spills.

“We are begging Shell and the government to come and clean up the environment. If they fail to come and do the needful, we the women will take action against them. When oil spills occur they hardly respond in time. And this is not good. If they had their mothers here they would come and do the needful instantly. But, because they know it is other people’s mothers that are here that is why they are acting this way. So, they should come and clean up the environment; it is not good to see it like this. The survival of the people depends on the environment.’’ She said.

On his part, the CDC Chairman of the community, Basil Young narrated the ordeal of the people of Peremabiri, citing issues ranging from neglect suffered by the community as a host community in terms absence of basic amenities to the negative impacts of the current oil spill incidents.

He revealed that since the inception of Shell in 1957, the community has suffered several levels of negligence with peanuts as benefits provided by the company, despite the huge income generated from the oil wells situated in the community.

“It is a pity that since 1957 Shell has been operating in this community, we don’t have anything. No social amenities. We have a cottage hospital, but if you go to that place [the cottage hospital], you will pity the community. With no portable water, coastal erosion is eating off the community.

“The spill has affected the community economically, socially and otherwise. Our poor mothers, wives, our children survive through this swamp and the river. We ought to have received relief materials. This spill has been there for some days now; no Shell staff, nobody. We are all here on our own.”

He appealed to Shell to clamp its leaking pipeline and to restore the environment. He called on the government at all levels to intervene in the matter to ensure peace and order in the Peremabiri community.

Reacting to the spill incident, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams said we have it on record that the promise by Shell to visit the Spill site for JIV on 10th and 11th October 2023 did not happen. Rather, we were duly informed that the JIV took place a day after the field visit by the ERA/FoEN-led team; on the 12th of October.

According to him, going to sites and communities of interest with the media by ERA/FoEN is a deliberate strategy to enable stakeholders to come face to face with victims of incidents and get information from primary sources.

Williams further stated that while booming crude oil to prevent spreading on the surface of water is commendable, such actions do not prevent the soluble elements of crude oil from having chemical reactions within the marine ecosystem, adding that this is why effective and prompt clean up should follow booming of crude oil in any marine ecosystem.

He called on Shell to take immediate action to clean up and restore the environment around the Peremabiri community and admonished NOSDRA and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment to follow up on spill incidents and ensure clean-up and compensation matters are effected within a reasonable time frame.

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