By Eboagwu Austine N. Monday
Three civil society organisations — The Corner House, UK; Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Nigeria; and Re:Common, Italy — have asked the Bayelsa state oil & environmental commission to investigate the recent oil spillage at Nembe LGA.
The oil mining lease (OML) 29 wellhead in Santa Barbara south field had blown on November 5, and has been spewing oil into water bodies.
It is jointly owned by AEEPCO and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
In a letter addressed to John Sentamu, chairman of the commission, the CSOs said the Bayelsa commission’s terms of reference are explicit that its work will include “investigating the environmental and human damage caused by the operations of the multinational oil companies, specifically as a result of oil spills, in Bayelsa state”.
“As non-governmental organisations who have worked in solidarity with communities in the Delta, we are deeply concerned that the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission has yet to comment on the spill,” the letter reads.
“We believe that it is critical that it does so as soon as possible, in order that the local communities retain trust in the commission’s work.
“The damages caused by the spill have been compared by Nigeria’s minister of state for environment, Sharon Ikeazor, to the impact of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II.
“The governor of Bayelsa state, Douye Diri, has described the spill as the worst he has seen in his lifetime.
“Oil from the spill, which is still continuing, has already reached the coast, devastating local mangroves and destroying fisheries. The long-term impacts are likely to last for at least 50 years.”
The CSOs also asked the commission to probe Shell who previously managed OML 29 before selling it off to Aiteo.
Aiteo had alleged that the pipelines Shell sold to them were in a bad state of repair, mostly ruptured, and that Shell concealed their condition.
“In our view, the historical role of Shell in operating the OML 29 field must therefore be investigated in order to properly to assess the culpability for the spill,” the letter reads.
“We would urge the Commission to issue an immediate statement that it will be investigating the spill.
“We would also urge a statement updating local communities and the wider world as to the status of the Commission’s investigations to date since it is now almost three years since the commission started its work in earnest.”
The letter was jointly signed by Nicholas Hildyard, co-director of The Corner House; Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA chairman; and Luca Manes, director of Re:Common.