09 January 2015, Ilorin — The Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, has lauded the gesture of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, SPDC, for agreeing to compensate the Bodo community in Ogoniland over two oil spill incidents that occurred in the area in 2008.
Saraki in a statement released in Ilorin commended Shell’s decision, noting that he had in October, 2012 led members of the committee on an unscheduled oversight visit to the Niger-Delta region to inspect and assess the impact of oil spills in the area.
He also recalled that “after seeing first hand the level of environmental degradation brought about by the oil spills, and how the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians living in the affected areas were negatively impacted, myself and the other members of the committee made a firm commitment that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the oil spills did not go unpunished, and that those whose subsistence had been affected did not go uncompensated.
“Consequently, a series of calls and meetings were held with the leadership of Shell, and commitments were made. Since then, Senator Saraki and the members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology have continued to work tirelessly to ensure that Shell and other concerned multinationals delivered on their pledges to compensate the victims.
“Nigerians and the international community should know that oil multinationals like Shell finally taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of their oil mining actions and accidents in Nigeria is a monumental step in the right direction. Such actions serve as needful precedents that will help ensure that Nigerians do not have to suffer for the activities of foreign corporations in our homeland.”
Saraki, while reacting to the news of the compensation, said: “As commendable as these recent developments are, it is also crucial to point out the fact that without clear-cut and sustainable policies in place, such compensation might only be one-off occurrences. What Nigeria needs right now to operate in line with international best practices is a comprehensive law that works to ensure that oil spill compensation are not arbitrary, but equitable for all affected parties.”
He stated how important it is to point out that the issue of oil spills and compensation for the resident communities would not even be a ground breaking issue if Nigeria and Nigerians had an executive branch of the federal government that saw it as its fundamental duty to fight for the people.
“Nigerians both at home and abroad should be absolutely appalled by the fact that the affected communities had to go beyond our borders to seek redress in the courts – despite the fact that we have an executive branch that has the power vested in it by our Constitution to protect and defend the people of Nigeria.
“We must also ask ourselves: if this executive branch of the federal government cannot defend us against issues as simple as oil spill conflicts with multinational organisations, how do we expect it to defend us against more serious issues.
“Finally, as we move forward, we must all begin to push for a comprehensive reform in the oil spill management and clean-up regime in order to ensure that our fellow citizens are not left to face the effects of such accidents if/when they do occur.”
*Hammed Shittu – Thisday