30 January 2014, Abuja -Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment have flayed the Department of Petroleum Resources for the slow pace of action towards compensation of communities affected by Bonga oil spill which are yet to be paid the $11.5billion fine by Shell Nigerian Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO ).
The lawmakers were reacting to the disclosure by the department at a resumed hearing involving DPR, SNEPCO and affected communities at the National Assembly that it just received the Post Impact Assessment (PIA) report on the spill a day before the meeting with the committee.
Chairperson of the committee, Uche Ekwunife (APGA, Anambra) who described SNEPCO’s delay in paying the compensation as playing games, said it was unacceptable and that communities currently suffering must be compensated.
The lawmakers also noted that with the action of DPR, it could be concluded that they are “partakers in oil spilling” and “a clog in the wheel of progress”, while expressing the need to amend the NOSDRA Act to bring it to par with current realities.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have explained how they arrived at a total of $11.5billion compensation figure for the December 2011 Bonga oil spill which affected many communities in the Niger Delta region.
The director-general of NOSDRA, Mr Peter Idabor said the agency arrived at the sum of $5billion fine it recommended based on the extent of damage done to the environment.
“The amount is to take charge of the marine environment and up till now, there is no proof it has been paid.”
Lamenting that the affected communities have lost their livelihood as they could not go back to fishing, he added that Nigeria’s pollution is the worst in the world and that the level of impunity displayed by oil companies in the country is unprecedented.
He suggested that the issue of PIA be moved from DPR to Ministry of Environment “to forestall the kind of delay we have seen.”
In his own submission, the director-general of NIMASA described SNEPCO’s antics as “frustrating”, adding that “SNEPCO made it impossible to get to the place to take samples to prove our case. We eventually learnt that it was the spill that affected the coastline. SNEPCO that was involved did not do much in terms of relief materials. We have proof that it was the Bonga spill that affected the coastline and communities.
“The kind of impunity that SNEPCO has demonstrated in the Niger Delta must be stopped if the future of the Niger Delta is to be assured. It was responsible for the spill.”