Bonga spill: Shell promises to cooperate with lawmakers

Clara Nwachukwu

17 January 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – The Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), a member of the Shell Companies in Nigeria, and operator of the Bonga Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel have promised to cooperate with Nigerian lawmakers investigating the cleanup of the December 20 oil leak from the facility.

This followed a motion by the House of Representatives last week to further probe the cleanup of the spill amid claims by Shell that it had concluded the cleanup and completely dispersed the oil, using strong dispersants.

But the House mandated its Committees on Niger Delta Development Commission, Environment and Niger Delta Ministry to visit, inspect and evaluate the cause and effect of the Bonga oil spill on the ecosystem of the neighbouring communities and ascertain the extent of the cleanup.

The lawmakers argued that information available to them showed that the spill affected an area of about and wondered how Shell could have been contained and cleaned up a spill of such magnitude within so short a time to resume crude production.

Accordingly, they urged the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Nigeria’s biggest producer to take full responsibility for it and pay appropriate compensations to the affected communities.

But in a telephone response, a spokesman for Shell, Mr. Precious Okolobo, insisted, “As we have stated previously, the Bonga leak has been cleaned up and we will be pleased to demonstrate this to stakeholders.”

Although Shell said it is still awaiting the result of the laboratory test of oil samples sent abroad, which it described as third party spill and not from Bonga seen around the shores, but which communities claim is from the deepwater FPSO.

Reports from environment groups like the Environmental Rights Action, and Friends of the Environment Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on the spread of the spill continue to raise doubts about the extent of the Bonga spill and attendant impact on the communities.

The group had argued that the volume spilled may be much more than the 40,000 barrels claimed by Shell, judging by the shorelines oil, but Shell has maintained its figures.

The environment group on its official website reported of further spread of the slick from Shell’s Bonga facility to more communities, which it said, “Necessitated a visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors to two of the affected communities in Ekeremor Local
Government Area of Bayelsa State, along the Dodo River. The communities are Bilabiri and Amatu. The Dodo River empties into the Atlantic Ocean and the main occupation of the people there is fishing.”

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