25 October 2014, Warri — OIL spills are a common phenomenon in the Niger Delta region. It could be caused by a third party interference popularly referred to as sabotage or equipment failure, a euphemism for failed pipes caused by either old age or the usage of sub-standard pipes whose integrity is too weak to withstand the continuous and permanent inflow of crude oil and gas.
When these spills occur, it causes severe environmental pollution, degradation and health hazards to the communities and people. So it behooves on the relevant government authorities to take immediate remedial and urgent steps to curtail its spread and limit the negative impact on both domestic and aquatic life.
The agency charged with these crucial responsibilities is the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), a body created by Federal Government through d the NOSDRA Act 2006. It has as one its principal responsibilities the assessment of any damage caused by an oil spillage; undertake a Post-spill Impact Assessment, PSIA, to determine the extent and intensity of damage and its long-term effect.
It also has the burden of advising the federal and state government on possible effects on the health of the people and to ensure that appropriate remedial action is taken for the restoration and compensation of the environment among others.
But how effective has the agency been in the execution of its mandate to the people in view of mounting allegations of massive corruption and collusion with officials of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), to short-change oil impacted communities by depriving them of their rights and privileges?
According to an environmental rights activist and Managing Director of Fredorosa Casolini Limited based in Warri, Mr. Eyitemi Brown-Dibofun, “there is an unholy alliance between NOSDRA and the oil operators in Nigeria to further underdeveloped the Niger Delta region”.
He accused both NOSDRA and the NPDC of many vices ranging from incompetence, ineptitude, corruption, collusion, divide and rule tactics in any impacted community and even using armed men to intimidate, humiliate and torture community leaders as the case may be and cited some examples thus:
“The Ikara Itsekiri community in Ikpoba-Okha LGA of Edo State has experienced four major oil spills in less than 10 months. The first being on November 15th 2013; January 5th, 2014; February 18th, 2014 and August 1st, 2014 respectively with Joint Investigation Visits, JIVs undertaken by all stakeholders on January 6th and 11th, 2014; March 13th and August 14th, 2014 respectively. There was a fire out break in the Ikara community forest and farmland ignited from a failed portion of NPDC pipeline on April 1st that was left unattended too for five month leaving in its trail a massive destruction of forest and wildlife. “Part of the burnt forest is a conservation area reserve by the Edo State Government. NPDC and NOSDRA paid deaf ear to the spill and fire incident. After officials of the Edo State Ministry of Environment led by Mr. Lincoln visited the site they were shocked at the level of destruction caused to the flora and fauna and catastrophic extinction of its biodiversity on which the lives of the people depend”.
Brown-Dibofun said ten months after, NOSDRA is yet to conduct the Post-Spill Impact Assessment, PSISA, which usually culminate in the damage assessment of resources and properties as part of oil spill response management and as a basis for negotiation for payment of compensation. He said six months after the fire disaster of March 27th 2014 neither NOSDRA nor NPDC has responded to communication directed to them for remediation.
Curiously, it was noted that even when the PSIA has not been done, the polluter, NPDC, has already awarded the clean -up and remediation contract to a contractor who has mobilized to site and the waterways, the motive for this clandestine move is to obliterate scientific and visual evidence required by the community to pursue their case against NPDC. Again NPDC constantly disobeys NOSDRA directives to do the needful in this matter and usually inform NOSDRA that they are waiting for “approval”.
Another case of NOSDRA ineptitude and corrupt collusion with NPDC is the case where oil spills are underestimated grossly as in the Ikara spill. While NOSDRA estimated 40 barrels of crude, NPDC the polluter awarded the clean-up contract to Mytec company to recover 145 barrels of spilled crude.
According to Brown-Dibofun, “we were duly informed that over 150 barrels has been recovered even when the contract does not include the restoration of the degraded environment to its pristine condition”, saying that they suspect that more than 2000 barrel were spilled into the Ikara community forest and waterways.
Masters of the act of divide and rule Truly both government agencies have become masters in the divide and rule tactics in a bid to subjugate every impacted community for their selfish reasons in collusion with some renegade indigenes as in Ikara community, pitting brothers against brothers to the advantage of government instead of the common good of the communities especially when the ruling executive of the community refuses to play along with them in their l design to short-change them.
NPDC and NOSDRA now resort to the use of fifth columnist in Ikara community who now sign JIV forms reserved for the communities accredited representatives as played out on 29th September, 2014 when one Ogbemi was used to sign on behalf of the community without due mandate. When the government bodies came into the community for an assessment visit they did not inform the community executive but invited the said Ogbemi. When the accredited representatives of the community got wind of that they were already in the impacted site, they mobilized to site and got the beaten of their life from the security agents brought by NOSDRA and NPDC officials. They were treated at the local Ologbo Health Centre before been transferred to the Central Hospital Benin City for proper management and both police report and hospital report were made available.
Curiously, they are being framed up as pipelines vandals as various equipment were tied round their necks as evidence to prove that they were caught in the act of vandalism and photographs taken, that was why they were brutalized.
The logic is that if this was the case why did they not hand them over to the relevant authorities for prosecution?
According to Eyitemi-Dibofun, “they were brutalized, humiliated, traumatized, dehumanized and thoroughly assaulted resulting in severe bodily injuries. This is part of NPDC’s game plan to force or blackmail the community leadership to accept whatever was offered to them as compensation without a valuation report from a qualified estate surveyor and valuer which is a basis for negotiation for payment of compensation.”
Another test case is the Jakpa-Tie community oil crude spill of February 25th, April 14 and May 1st, 2014 in the deep of the Benin River Atlantic waters which by tidal flow impacted several communities along the waterways in Warri North Council area of Delta State.
In this case also though NOSDRA did their level best to compel NPDC to do the needful, the NPDC declined and instead selected only a few communities for settlement and NOSDRA appears to be handicapped.
NOSDRA catalogues of Failures
Brown-Dibofun catalogued the failures of the oil spill response agency to include but not limited to the following:
“The NPDC oil spills in Ikara community of Ikpoba-Okha LGA of Edo State, the Erhoike community oil spill, the oil spills in Jakpa-Tie, the Seplat oil spill in 2011 in Orere-Uluba community, the Shell’s Bonga Field oil spill of 2011 and the MT.J.S. Amazing LPFO spill in Jala-warri in June 2009 amongst other”.
It is against this against background he has called for the scrapping of NOSDRA, saying, “we wish to join various voices in the environmental rights community in Nigeria who have been calling for disbandment of NOSDRA to demand same and to also suggest that NOSDRA functions be transferred to its sister agency, NESREA which has performed creditably well since its formation.”
He also promised to bring to the fore the recruitment scam in NOSDRA in due course.
Whatever the situation, the activities of NOSDRA that is hitherto hidden from the public domain have been exposed. It is now left to the appropriate authorities to commence thorough investigation and take appropriate steps to correct these anomalies.
*Emma Arubi – Vanguard