National News

NEMBE GAS EXPLOSION: Ijaws in diaspora demand relief for oil spill victims

By Ebi Perekeme 

The Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC), has demanded immediate relief to communities impacted by the current oil and gas leaks from the Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company – operated oilfield at Nembe in Bayelsa.

The demand is contained in a letter, dated November 15 and signed by Prof Monday Gold, President, Dr Festus Odubo, Director of Community Outreach, and Dr Brisibe Nabena, Director of Conflict Resolution of IDC.

The IDC, with headquarters in New Jersey, US, is seeking immediate deployment of appropriate technology to plug the oil well blow-out which had allegedly been discharging an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude into the waters for the past two weeks.

The letter was addressed to Mr Benedict Peters, Chief Executive of Aiteo Group, an indigenous firm which operates Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 following the 2015 divestment of Shell from the asset.

The group urged the oil firm to live up to its claim in the oil firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies and adopt best practices by providing a support fund of, at least, $500,000 to the impacted settlements.

It stated that Aiteo’s CSR includes the expression, ‘To encourage a positive impact, through our activities, on the environment, consumers, employees, communities and stakeholders.’

It stated that Aiteo’s assurances “to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life for our workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society as a whole” and being responsible stewards of the Earth, needed to be put in practice.

The group noted that it was acting on information of its members, in particular, those from Nembe Local Government Area who are directly affected by the spill from Aiteo’s facility.

According to the letter, the group stated that Aiteo “must promptly plug the blowout, as required by Nigerian law, and retain the failed Christmas Tree structure atop the wellhead for future independent analysis to ascertain the source of the failure.”

It stated: “Aiteo must immediately deploy sufficient oil spill containment and cleanup equipment and personnel to contain and collect as much of the spilled hydrocarbon pollutant as possible, as required by Nigeria law, and hire as many local community members as possible.

“This is clearly a Tier III oil spill (the largest category), and Aiteo should contract with local and international experts such as Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) in Southampton, UK, or other experts to conduct a large-scale Tier III spill response.

“Aiteo must provide immediate, interim response funding directed by Aiteo to the affected Ijaw people of at least US$500,000, to be used by the affected people to support their initial sustenance in response to the spill.

“This initial funding will, in no way, prejudice future claims for compensation for the spill and will allow local Ijaw people to purchase alternative food resources during the spill.

“Contaminated fish from the spill cannot be consumed. This Response fund is not to be directed to IDC but to the affected communities.”

The group further requested that Aiteo should support and cooperate with IDC’s technical advisor to join the official Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

They urged Aiteo to immediately commission an independent, scientific, environmental damage assessment by a credible, independent scientific institution.

“Aiteo must preserve all evidence, including documents, video and photographs, and actual equipment (in particular, the failed Christmas Tree structure) that may be relevant to determining the cause of the wellhead failure and spill.

“Aiteo must provide the community with all records pertaining to this well.

“It should include the well’s design and installation, any/all inspection and maintenance the company has performed on the well,” the group stated.

It was learnt that the oil firm had, at the weekend, donated four truck loads of relief materials, including food items like rice, garri, yam, beans, plantain, bottled water and other sundry items for the medical facilities in the area.

The food and medical items were accompanied by a cash donation of N5 million for the impacted communities.

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