‘Bonga oil spill:Government has not learnt from Gulf of Mexico crisis’

Samuel Oyadongha

29 December 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa – A rights activist, Mr. Osteen Igbapike, yesterday expressed concern over the Bonga oil spill on the Atlantic fringe of Bayelsa saying Nigeria and those on whom the buck rests on issues of protecting the environment have learnt nothing from the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spillage wherein 45,000 gallons of crude was spilled and the lessons from oil response from the regulatory agency the USELPA.

Igbapike, who is also an attorney to Odimodi, Isiayei-Gbene, Beniboye and Samayin-Gbidipou communities in Burutu council area of Delta State said since the Bonga oil spill was a point source and a third tier spill it ought have been a national emergency and as such the response cannot be led by the polluter itself (SNEPCo).

According to him, ” What is happening now from the Bonga spill is that the polluter is in charge of the regulators because the regulators do not have helicopters, vessels, dispersants, boons and the expertise to manage oil spill response.”

He described as embarrassing the comments of the Honourable Minister of Environment – Hajia Adiza Ibrahim Mailafia after an inspection of the Bonga deep offshore facility in company of the Director-Generals(DGs) of NIMASA and NOSDRA on the very unfortunate oil spillage which spilt about 40,000 barrels (using Shell’s own estimate) of crude oil into Nigeria’s maritime area.

The Bonga oil Field belongs to Shell but is operated by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO).

Hajia Adiza Ibrahim Mailafia was quoted to have said “the country was lucky that the spill had not hit the coastline… that the use of dispersants for the cleanup has been very effective…”

He said, “This comment from no lesser person than the Honourable Minister of Environment shows that the country is in deep trouble environmentally as it is obvious that our honourable minister is not abreast with the environmental statutes of Nigeria and the international conventions that Nigeria is a signatory to.”

“Nigeria is a maritime state with a maritime area of 46,510sq Km. Nigeria has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 210, 900 sq km and 853km of coastline which is shared by all of Nigeria’s coastal states of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo Ondo, Lagos etc.

“This is the area wherein Shell’s SNEPCO has negligently on the 20th of December, 2011 “during routine operations to transfer crude oil from Bonga FPSO Vessel to a waiting tanker through an export line linking the FPSO polluted with 40,000 barrels of oil which could be more if proper assessment and inspection of the spill facility is carried out strictly following due process.”

“Because of the ineptitude of the Federal Ministry of Environment shell is pushing its luck further by even stating brazenly “that SNEPCO’s efforts were hampered by third party oil spilled from another vessel in the area” and that the Bonga oil spill sheen is less than a hundredth of a milimetre.

” A third tier spill ought to be managed by the relevant regulatory agencies not by the polluter. The use of dispersants on spill is also regulated because dispersants are more toxic than the spill itself. But from the announcement of this spill by Shell itself, SNEPCO has been the lead agency as the polluter in the management of this spill, hence they are able to fly a kite in the that the containment effort has been hampered by third party oil spill from another vessel in the area. This is criminal.”

He lamented that the supposed regulatory agencies in oil spill response which includes: Federal Ministry of Environment, NOSDRA, NIMASA, DPR, NIWA, NESREA and NMA are comatose and inept.

Igbapike called for the scrapping or collapsing of the response and management agencies together so the new outfit rather than relying on the polluter for reponse.

“The Nigeria Government have shown disinterest in this oil spill because of their equity holding in the oil exploration and production business especially when the the Nigerian economy is oil driven,”he said.

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