Mkpoikana Udoma 24 March 2015, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – Verification of claims over the December 2011 Shell’s Bonga offshore oil spill have commenced in all the communities in Bayelsa and Delta States affected by the spill.
Immediate past Chairman of the Community Development Committee and Chairman of Koluama 2 in Southern Ijaw Local Government of Bayelsa State, Mr. George Ibobra, told journalists in Yenagoa that the verification exercise has actually reached the final stages.
The December 2011 spill impacted six local governments in Delta and Bayelsa, after over 40,000 barrels of crude oil was discharged into the Atlantic Ocean during an operational mishap at the oil field operated by Shell Petroleum and Development Company, SPDC.
Ibobra, who had represented Koluama 2 on the Spill Impact Verification Committee, explained that the impacted communities in Delta and Bayelsa had inaugurated a 30-man committee in 2014, drawn from the six affected local government areas in the two states to conduct the verification of claims.
He said some groups had taken undue advantage of the ongoing verification to circulate compensation forms to unsuspecting members of the public across the two states, advising members of the public to disregard the syndicates who were working outside the affected areas.
He directed those who suffered impact of the spill to approach their community leaders to get verified.
According to him, “It has gotten to our notice that people are currently circulating oil spill compensation forms in most Bayelsa communities. We wish to say that, for the purposes of the Bonga oil spill incident, impacted people in Brass, Southern Ijaw and Ekeremor Local Governments in Bayelsa are being verified through their community leaders.”
“Any other group apart from the Community Development Committee Chairmen is unknown to us and whoever purchases forms from other sources does so at his or her own risk,” he said.
The community leader also stressed that the committee was collecting demographic and personal data of impacted fishermen in a bid to assist them to file their claims after a sworn affidavit in any high court.
He also said that the committee had allocated quotas to each of the impacted communities and issued forms accordingly, warning that those forms circulating outside the committee would not be included in the claims.
“We are very meticulous in what we are doing and anyone selling forms to the public will be fished out eventually because we have set limits and are working within agreed quota so any extra form cannot be accounted for.”
“The purpose is to authenticate the claims before they are submitted the SNEPCO for payment because we do not want people to make bogus claims that will spoil the case of those who genuinely suffered impact,” he added.
It would be recalled that Southern Ijaw, Brass and Ekeremor LGAs all on the Atlantic shoreline were the worst affected in Bayelsa state while Burutu, Warri North and Warri South LGAs were the worst hit in Delta by the Bonga oil spill, which led the House of Representatives and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA in December 2014 to recommend a compensation of $3.96 billion for victims of the incident.