5th January, 2012
As Nigerians grapple with the problems of Boko Haram, fuel subsidy removal and galloping inflation, another national disaster is happening in the Niger Delta, this time an oil spill of a magnitude the country has not witnessed since the mid 1980.
Two weeks ago, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria recorded an oil spill at its Bonga facility and another one this week at its Nembe Creek trunkline.
The affected communities include Ogulaha, Beniboye and Okuntu in Delta State and Orobiri, Odiama and Aggeh in Bayelsa State.
The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had announced at a press conference just before Christmas that the communities needed assistance because their waters, farmlands and aquatic animals and plants on which they depend for survival have been destroyed by oil spill.
Though Shell claimed that it has cleaned up the spill in Bonga, the communities are still suffering the effects, and the Delta State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has called on Shell to give full disclosure of the impact and extent of damage of the spill.
The governor said Shellâ€™s claims were not supported by hard evidence and urged the company to immediately clean up the spill and compensate the affected communities.
Though Shell claims that the spill was caused by oil thieves who had installed valves at two points near the Tora manifold in Nembe, more needs to be done to protect these facilities and avoid this kind of environmental degradation.
The company had recently confirmed the leakage of about 40,000 barrels of crude oil in its Bonga deepwater facility and had moved in experts to rectify the situation, which we believe is a socially responsible move but preventing problems from occurring is a rather better option than solving them.
The oil thieves are not ghosts and we believe some of the stealing may even be with the connivance of Shellâ€™s personnel, not leaving out the Nigerian Navy and NIMASAâ€™s patrol boats. But for the spill, God knows how many barrels of crude oil Nigeria loses daily.
Last year there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the British Petroleumâ€™s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. It was described as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States. At the end of the explosion, 11 people died and 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean for 87 days after which the disaster was contained.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that US prosecutors were preparing criminal charge against BP employees, the first criminal charge over the disaster.
In Nigeria, where our laws seem lax, we wonder if anyone pays when a corporate body commits a crime or causes a crime to be committed, directly or indirectly.
The oil spill in the Niger Delta is something that should be checked, cleaned up and compensation paid where appropriate. Oil companies have for long destroyed the land and paid little as compensation. This must stop.
The concerned authorities must investigate, ensure total clean up and move to prevent such a monumental disaster in future.