A disagreement in the areas impacted by an oil leak on Trans Ramos Pipeline within Shell’s oilfield at Aghoro communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has stalled a joint investigation of the spill incident.
The Oil leakage, which occurred on May 17, 2018 discharged a yet to be ascertained volume of crude oil into the environment and polluted the river, farmlands and surroundings.
The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) said a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to ascertain the cause of the oil leak has been concluded but the report was yet to be signed by all the parties.
Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Media Relations Manager at SPDC had said that the joint investigation was conducted by the oil firm, representatives of the host community, government and regulatory agencies.
Odugbesan however said that the report of the JIV which commenced early in July 2018 was ready and awaiting signing off by the communities but declined to give reasons for the delays in releasing the JIV report.
The JIV report is expected to unravel the cause of the spill, volume of oil discharged and the area adversely impacted, and volume of oil recovered in the spill incident as well as serve as a basis to determine compensation.
It was gathered that SPDC and representatives of the host communities had a sharp disagreement on the size of areas affected by the oil spill and hence refused to sign the report ad disrupted ongoing clean up of the site.
Mr Sunday Benjamin, Chairman, Community Development Committee, Aghoro 1 who participated in the JIV said the communities had argued that the oil spread to wider areas and affected more places than the JIV covered.
“The cause of the stalemate is that Shell refused to accommodate satellite communities, they did not allow the JIV to be extensive, they excluded the satellite communities and fishing settlements.
“They only captured Aghoro 1 and 2, leaving other fishing settlements impacted by the crude oil that leaked into the waters; they recorded 33 acres for Aghoro 1 and 113 acres for Aghoro 2.
“We eventually signed our portion because we did not want delays in the process and our land affected was not much but Aghoro 2 people refused to sign that is why the JIV report is delayed.
“Everyone agreed that the spill was traced to ruptured pipeline on three points due to corrosion on the Trans Ramos Pipeline,” Benjamin said.
Reacting to the development Dr Peter Idabor, Director-General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) told NAN in a telephone interview that the JIV is ‘inconclusive’ following the disagreements.
“ From the feedback from our officer in Yenagoa, the JIV is inconclusive’” Idabor said
A Legal practitioner based in Bayelsa State, Barr. Benjamin S. Ogbara, who participated in the oil spillage inspection, has however sent a protest letter to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General. Tukur Buratai over the alleged brutalisation and violation of his fundermental human right by men of the Joint Task Force code named Operation Delta Safe in Bayelsa State.
According to Barr. Ogbara, though the incident happened over an disputed oil spill inspection and clean up agreement between the Aghoro 1 community of Ekeremor Local Government Area and the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the conduct of the military personnel under the command of Rear Admiral A. O. Suleiman was shameful and unprofessional.
Barr. Benjamin S. Ogbara,in the protest letter to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai said the experience in the hands of the men of the Joint Military Task force was terrible and showed alleged complicity in the issue of oil spillage and poor dealings of oik multinationals with host communities.
According to Ogbara, “I had a very terrible experience in the hand of the Commander, Operation Delta Safe , Rear Admiral A.O. Suleiman at their operational headquarters today at Igbogene, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Yesterday evening, I was contacted by members of Aghoro 1 Community in Ekeremo Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to accompany them to attend a meeting with Operation Delta Safe and Shell Petroleum and Development Company”
“. I am gratefully to attend the meeting since I am also involved in the team that is assisting them in negotiating for fair deal for them in an oil spill in Trans Ramos pipeline belonging to SPDC which SPDC has admitted liability due to operational failure of their facility. ”
“The Shell Petroleum and Development Company also admitted that the 1114 barrels of oil spilled into the environment and affecting land, rivers , swamps and water bodies of Aghoro 1 community covering an area of 113.03 hectares while the community own licensed surveyor is saying that the spill impacted on 1825 hectares of land in the community. Agreeing on the the exact numbers of he hectares of impact is the impasse between SPDC and the community and National Oil Spill Detection Agency ( NOSDRA) has advised that a joint survey be carried out under their supervision which the community has already written to that effect.”
“However, today when the CDC chairman of the community, Victor Akamu, Hon. Ben Simon, a chief, another member and myself as their legal representative and other members of the community arrived at the venue, we waited for the arrival of the Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral A.O Suleiman. SPDC was represented by Mr Jerry, the Community Interface Coordinator, Mr. Tonye Fatoki , the manager, External Security Relation and others”
“Immediately the Commander , Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral A. O. Suleiman arrived, he did not even allow us to say anything. He commanded us to accept the 113 hectares as stated by SPDC and that we should not say anything at all. I tried to talk but was ordered not to talk. He told the CDC chairman of the community that myself and others are just trying to deceive him ( the CDC chairman) and he should not listen to us and that we want to eat the community money.”
“He further ordered his military men to profile me, the CDC Chairman of the community (Victor Akamu ) and one Hon. Simon Ben.
We were taken to a room where detailed profile of us were taken including our finger impressions and our photographs. We were temporarily held down for almost three hours profiling before we were eventually asked to go.”
“I wanted to ask is it part of Operational Delta Safe to force a community to sign a Joint Investigation and Verification Report?
Shell Petroleum and Development Company should Stop Using Operation Delta Safe to intimidate community for nothing.
They must definitely be accountable for their excesses in an appropriate legal means.
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