02 March 2015, Yenagoa — Compensation forms have flooded communities in Bayelsa State and its capital, Yenagoa, for the Shell Bonga oil spill of December 2011 and Chevron KS Endeavor gas explosion incident of January 2012.
Saturday Independent gathered on Friday that the compensation forms were being sold by suspected syndicates who had been going round the communities telling unsuspecting members that they would benefit immensely from payment by the companies.
The Bonga oil spill discharged about 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean, following an operational mishap at the oil field operated by Shell Nigeria Production and Exploration Company (SNEPCO).
The House of Representatives and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had in December 2014 recommended a compensation of $3.96 billion for victims of the devastating incident.
On the Chevron KS Endeavor gas explosion, which was caused by operational failure, killing over four workers on board the facility, the huge fire, which resulted from it burned for 46 days, destroying aquatic lives and the environment.
Tens of thousands of the compensation forms are being circulated in the communities impacted by the incidents, it was learnt.
According to Ebrasin Leghemo, a youth leader of Koluama II community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Koluama communities were approached by a firm of valuers, Dutch Nigeria Ltd, which allocated 10,000 compensation forms to them.
“There are three groups that are involved and we negotiated with them to give us 10,000 slots at the rate of N1,000 for indigenes and N2,000 for non-indigenes and we were made to understand that each claimant would get N400,000.
“We heard that the House of Representatives has mandated Shell to pay N3.98 billion to the affected communities and we have secured the 10,000 slots for our community for impacted people amongst us,” Leghemo said.
It was learnt that agents of the purported firms of valuers involved in the scam were making inroads into most communities whose leaders were purchasing the forms in bulk.
Some of the people who had purchased the forms said that they were sold at between N1,000 and N1,500 each in coastal communities and the state capital.
Two indigenes of Ukubie, who did not want to be named, said that they had filled and returned the forms they bought at N1,000 each and also filed claims for the two incidents.
According to them, they had filed individual claims of N350,000 for damages from the two incidents.
When contacted, Shell’s spokesman, Joseph Obari, restated the company’s earlier stance that the Bonga oil spill did not hit the shores.
Officials of Chevron’s public affairs department, however, declined comments on the development.
Reacting to the development, the Environmental Rights Action, Bayelsa State office, condemned the indiscriminate sale of compensation forms to victims, describing it as a fraud.
“This is fraud and Bayelsans should be warned and be educated on such acts of criminality”, head of ERA in the state, Alagoa Morris, said.
“We know that even if there was going to be compensation of any sort, it ought to be limited to those who actually suffered the negative impact and not every Tom, Dick and Harry who bought forms,” he added.
*Igoniko Oduma – Daily Independent