BAYELSA COMMUNITY OIL SPILL: WAS IT DUE TO EQUIPMENT FAILURE? COMMUNITY – YES, SHELL – NO

Oil spewing from equipment belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has ravaged parts of Tein-Biseni environment, Biseni, Yenagoa Local Government Area.
A report compiled by the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoE), showed that while Shell believed the spill was caused by sabotage, other stakeholders including regulators and the community argued it resulted from equipment failure.
The report, compiled by ERA’s state Representatives, Mr. Akpotu Ziworitin and Alagoa Morris, described the spill, which occurred on August 11 as massive.

The Auditor of the Community Development Committee (CDC) Clinton Beworu Amaoru confirmed that the spill occurred at 2pm but said since the incident, Shell had not reached out to the landlords of the environment.
 ‘’The cause of spill is equipment failure. And it occurred right at the Well Head, Adibawa North East, location1, Atumatu. Atumatu is the name of the lake in the environment and, it is identified with the facility. The body of water in the impacted environment is a swamp that connects the lake’’.
Amaoru confirmed that after the spill, Shell officials and government representatives visited the area but failed to agree on the cause of the incident.
He said: “Shell argued that the spill was caused by sabotage, but the government officials said the cause was due to Shell’s equipment which failed’.
“When they went for inspection our family was not actually informed and represented officially. But what happened was this, there is a contractor who is bearing the same surname with us; the Amaoru families.
“That very contractor was with the Shell officials; but the landlord family was not officially invited to be part of the inspection visit. Although the contractor is our family member; he is a contractor to Shell. So, I am not sure if that visit could be interpreted as Joint Investigation Visit (JIV).’’
He lamented that the spill had destroyed aquatic lives, ponds, lakes, farmlands and economic trees and urged Shell to meet the impacted families in roundtable.
But the report also quoted Shell’s Spokesman, Mr. Precious Okolobo, as saying that the spill happened in an unproductive well.
Okolobo said: “The spill Incident occurred on August 11, from a well that has not been producing. We commenced recovery of spilled oil the following day but this was disrupted by community people who alleged this was an operational spill.
“However, during the joint investigation visit which held August 13 – 17, it was clear that unknown persons had tampered with the well valve.  The JIV report has yet to be signed off.
“The community people have now agreed that SPDC should resume the recovery of spilled oil. SPDC will continue to operate with a high sense of responsibility for humans and the environment.”
However, ERA in the report said the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment faulted the claims of Shell and argued that the spill could not have been attributed to third party interference.

In its recommendations, ERA in the report advised the oil giant to stop a divide-and-rule approach to reduce conflicts among families and communities.
It appealed to Shell to treat a letter sent to it by the Awowaris, a famous family in the area, on the matter, adding that there was nothing wrong in according recognition to a host or landlord.
ERA said: “Shell should not limit recovery and cleanup efforts to the immediate environment alone, but ensure that cleanup extends to wherever the crude oil has spread to. Proper cleanup should follow recovery of spilled crude oil.
The owners of the impacted environment, who has lost swamp fishing grounds, should not be made to suffer from the inconclusive JIV; they should be treated as folks who are seriously impacted by oil industry induced pollution.
“If necessary, they should be sent relief material, be carried along in all discussions and be adequately compensated for damages/losses.
“The concerned families should continue to be peaceful while they take all necessary steps to get this sorted out. Allowing Shell to carry on with recovery is in the best interest of the environment.
“As long as the regulators: State Ministry of Environment (some) and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) are involved and have the details; the matter shouldn’t be expected to be swept under the carpet.
“Shell and the concerned families should be alert in terms of ensuring that this site does not go up in flames as often observed in some of Shell’s spill impacted sites in the state”. The Nation -
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