Oil spill devastates 100 Gbaramatu communities – Monarch

Emma Amaize
& Akpokona Omafuaire

17 February 2012, Sweetcrude,WARRI – THE monarch of Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South – West Local Government Area of Delta State, HRM, Godwin Bebenimibo, Ogeh Gbaruan II, has petitioned the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, over the December 20, 2011, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNPECo, Bonga FSPO oil leak, alleging that over 100 communities in his kingdom were devastated by the spill.

In a petition, signed by Chief Alfred Bubor, Chief J.G.B. Ari and Sir Clark Gbenewei on behalf of the monarch and the Gbaramatu Council of Chiefs alleged that the oil spill not only polluted their river, but grounded fishing, which is the primary occupation of the people.

“We, the undersigned for ourselves and on behalf of HRM, Godwin K. Bebenimibo, Ogeh Gbaruan III, Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the good people of Gbaramatu Kingdom communities, wish to inform you that the recent SPDC Bonga oil spill has spread to over one hundred (100) communities in our kingdom,” the petition read.

Chairman and managing director of SNEPCo, Mutiu Sumonu, in an interactive session with newsmen during a recent overflight of some creek communities in Delta and Bayelsa states, where the company carried out clean-up exercise, said the spill being complained of by the communities was a third party oil spill, and not the December 20, 2011 Bonga FSPO oil leak.

“We first sighted the oil on 24 December , last year, as we are finalizing the clean-up of the leak from our Bonga offshore facility. The trail of approximately 100 km from the Bonga FSPO was obviously different from what had leaked from our facility due to the age, shape and colour,” he claimed.

But the people vehemently disagreed with the company over the source of the spill, saying, “The spill has been so devastating that the primary occupation (fishing) of the people have been grounded as the river have been severely polluted.

“There is severe health hazard and no water/food for survival as their source of drinking water is also polluted and their source of food supply through their primary occupation (fishing) has been depleted. The people are helpless and frustrated and are aggrieved over the nonchalant attitude of the company in addressing the plight of the affected communities”, they stated.

“In other to avoid any crisis situation, it is important that Shell is directed to make arrangement to supply food and relief materials including drugs to the affected communities.

“It is also very necessary and important that a joint investigation is put in place to visit the kingdom for on the spot assessment to determine the extent of effect and damage on the kingdom communities by the spill.

“Shell should be directed to organize and make arrangement to undertake a clean-up of the spill in the kingdom immediately. It is hoped that our plight will be looked into on its merit and arrangement put in place to address them immediately”, they added.

Sunmonu, whose company had carried out clean up operations in many affected communities, however, said, “We believe any responsible operator would clean up the spill as part of their social and environmental responsibilities.

He thanked the parties for their support in the communities, where the clean up exercise had been successfully carried out, saying, “Actually, we found only very few small quantities of oil on the beach at the time of clean-up. Samples of oil collected during the joint inspection visits conducted at the shoreline have been sent to American and British laboratories and to NOSDRA for fingerprinting in order to establish the source”.

“We are still awaiting the final results and we urge all parties to wait for the outcome of these investigations,” he added.

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