Niger Deltans Ask Oil Companies To Stop Environmental Pollution

Oil, Bayelsa, Court
File photo

Niger Deltans have called on oil companies operating in the region to develop mechanisms to halt continuous environmental pollution.

Stakeholders made this known at a town hall meeting tagged “Advancing Community Capacity for Environmental Protection and Management”.

Speaking respectively on the “role of community in environmental protection and management” and “negative impacts of environmental pollution”, were two resource persons, a Geography lecturer with the Niger Delta University and chairman, Nigerian Environmental Society (NES), Bayelsa State chapter, Dr Charles Oyibo and Executive director, Mac-Jim Foundation, Mr Godson Jim-Dorgu.

The speakers were unanimous in their view that the peoples’ traditional means of livelihood, especially fishing and farming, had been adversely affected by the environmental degradation caused by actions and inactions of the government and oil firms.

They also said that the oil-related activities of the youths have contributed to an increasing and alarming proportion of environmental degradation in the region.

“We are worried that youths of the region, instead of preaching against environmental pollution, have joined the fray by carrying out oil bunkering and local refining in the creeks.

“The Joint Task Force deployed in the region by the government to secure oil facilities and arrest perpetrators has been using fire to destroy containers of illegally refined petroleum products and equipment seized from bunkrers and artisan refiners, thereby causing further damage to the environment.”

They therefore, stressed the need for oil companies to ensure oil spills were cleaned up properly with adequate compensation paid to affected communities.

Furthermore, they appealed to the government to “stop gas flaring and clean up the Niger Delta as recommended by the UNEP report”, and “enact good environmental laws” to protect the environment.

They also urged communities to engage in activities such as planting of trees and desist from harmful practices like improper disposal of wastes.

DPR Encourages Safe Use Of Liquefied Petroleum Gas

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) says continuous and safe use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) can enhance and promote environmental protection and conservation.

The organisation also said it can help to reduce deforestation, air pollution, promote clean energy usage, facilitate healthy population growth as well as reduce any negative impact of climate change.

This was the focus of the discussion at the 2017 Liquefied Petroleum Gas sensitisation workshop which held in Owerri, the Imo State capital south east Nigeria, themed: Promoting the Benefits of Encouraging Safe Use of LPG.

According to DPR officials, the workshop was also organized to stem the growing spate of LPG plants fire incidents reported across the country as well as allay the fears of Nigerians over the use of gas cylinders in homes for domestic activities.

While delivering his key note address, the south east Zonal Operations Controller of the DPR, Morrison Nwokedi, expressed regret that despite the fact that Nigeria has significant natural gas reserves, its utilization in the domestic sector is grossly inadequate.

According to him, Nigeria is yet to fully harness the benefit in its natural endowment even as the nation ranks 9th in the world for proven and probable natural gas reserves, which he says is estimated at 192 trillion cubic ft.

While Fielding questions from newsmen after the workshop, the Operations Director of the DPR, Owerri, Ernest Chukwu further reiterated how safe it is to use the LPG.

While the organisation hopes that the workshop enhances domestic use of LPGs, it has also granted approvals for the construction of new LPG depots in Calabar and Port Harcourt with storage capacity of 3,000 and 9,000 metric tonnes which are expected to be operational by the end of the year 2017.

Osun Lawmakers Summon Steel Company, Agencies Over Pollution

osun-house-of-assemblyThe Osun state House of Assembly has asked the management of Ife Iron and Steel Company of Nigeria and other relevant agencies in the environment sector to appear before it.

They are to appear before the lawmakers on Monday, November 7 over issue of environmental and air pollution, raised by a member of the House representing Ife North-State Constituency, Babatunde Olatunji.

The decision to summon the company was reached at the plenary on Tuesday, after hours of deliberations on the issue.

Honourable Olatunji told the House that the effect of the pollution on the people living in the area called for urgent attention.

“This company we are talking about has its advantage, as it is helping the economy of the state, however, we must be mindful of the fact that it is not about what happens today. It is about the health of the people.

“We know that steel manufacturing comes with a lot of hazard and the global practice is that everywhere there is such production, measures have to be put in place to mitigate the effect of the hazardous emissions and to also ensure that the lives of the people living around that area and the employees are secured.

“But as we have it in the Ife Central, the Ogunwusi and the Fasina communities, life has been a bit difficult for the locals in that community by virtue of the hazardous emissions coming from the chimney of that steel company,” he said.

Honourable Olatunji further stated that “the community has taken several steps to let the company know the danger of the emissions to their health but so far there has been no change five years after.

“We feel that while we appreciate the effort of this steel company in boosting our industrialisation drive and tax drive, we also owe it as a sense of duty that our people are protected.

“We need to ensure that they adhere to safety rules and the concern agency of government saddled with the responsibility should also be summoned to explain their role in all of these,” he added.

osun-house-of-assembly-inside
Lawmakers say the drive for industrialisation must not overshadow the health of the people

While lamenting the effect of the pollution caused by the factory on the residents of the area, the speaker of the house, Honourable Najeem Salaam, said it was important that the management of the company and other relevant agencies appeared before the House.

“The lives of our people is of utmost importance to us. The concerned authority need to be informed and they have to come here to speak too.

“When we sell out the lives of our people for whatever gain we are expecting, as a government, it does not make sense at all. We care for our people and we must ensure their safety,” he reminded the House.

On his part, Honourable Salaam said: “There is need for us to reach out to the concerned regulatory bodies, Osun State Ministry of Environment, NESREA, Town planning Department and others. The location of the factory also calls for questioning‎.

“Let these bodies have the opportunity to defend themselves and let’s know how to handle the situation, our intimate aim is to ensure that our people live a healthy life not contaminated with emission from any factory”.

Majority of the members present at the sitting agreed that the health of the people living in the area should not be compromised for any investment.

The people of Fasina-Ogunwusi in Ife North Local Government Area of Osun State had recently staged protests against the impact of the emission coming from the steel production of Ife Iron and Steel Nigeria Limited on their health.

House Advocates Stiffer Penalties For Environmental Polluters

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment, Hon Uche Ekwunife has advocated stiffer penalties for environmental polluters.

Hon. Ekwunife, who spoke at a news briefing with National Assembly Correspondents, also called for a national policy that would check cases of environmental degradation at all levels of government.

According to her “protecting the environment is the duty of all and that the environment is a reflection of the well being of a nation”.

Four Nigerian farmers sue Shell in Dutch court over pollution

Four Nigerian farmers sued Shell before a Dutch court, accusing the oil giant of destroying their livelihoods in a case that could set a precedent for global environmental responsibility.

The civil suit, backed by lobby group Environmental Action Right/Friends of the Earth, alleges that oil spills dating back to 2005 by the Anglo-Dutch company made fishing and farming in the plaintiffs’ Niger Delta villages impossible.

The four, who are fishermen and farmers, are seeking unspecified compensation and argue they can no longer feed their families because the area has been polluted with oil from Shell’s pipelines and production facilities.

Shell says the pollution was caused by oil thieves and that it has played its part in cleaning up.

“The real tragedy of the Niger Delta is the widespread and continual criminal activity, including sabotage, theft and illegal refining, that causes the vast majority of oil spills,” the group said in a statement.

Friends of the Earth said it hopes the case – set to last a day during which attorneys for both sides will present arguments before the judges retire to give their verdicts next year – will set a precedent and lead to “an end to the corporate crimes committed by oil giants like Shell in Nigeria and around the world”.

Wetland ecosystem

With around 31 million inhabitants, the Niger Delta, which includes the Ogoniland region, is one of the top 10 wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world and is a main source of food for the poor, rural population.

It’s not only environmental groups who have been critical of Shell’s Nigerian operations.

Last year, the United Nations said in a report the government and multinational oil companies, particularly Shell, were responsible for 50 years of oil pollution that had devastated the Ogoniland region.

In one community near an oil pipeline, drinking water was contaminated with benzene, a substance known to cause cancer, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organization guidelines.

Shell also faced legal action this month in the United States, where the U.S. Supreme court is hearing a case in which Nigerian refugees accused it of aiding the Nigerian military in the torture and killing environmentalists in the 1990s.

The government and oil firms have pledged to clean up the region and other parts of the Delta, but residents say they have seen very little action.
Royalty payments from oil firms and the sharing of federal oil revenues mean state governments in the Niger Delta have larger budgets than many West African nations, but endemic corruption has meant that little development has been achieved.

Shell Petroleum Development Co (SPDC) is the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria, with production capacity of more than 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. It operates a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp and other oil companies including Total SA subsidiary Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd.

Akwa Ibom: Exxon Mobil says begins oil spill clean-up

ExxonMobil’s said on Tuesday it was helping clean up an oil spill near its facility off the Nigeria’s southeast coast, although the company wasn’t yet sure what caused the leak.

Mobil Producing Nigeria, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), confirmed last week oil had been sighted near Ibeno in Akwa Ibom state but the source was unknown.

Local fishing communities blame Mobil for the spill, which they say has cut off their livelihood.

“Mobil … confirms it is assisting with the clean-up in cooperation with local authorities,” company spokesman Nigel Cookey-Gam said.
“The source of the hydrocarbon remains unknown as fingerprinting of collected samples is ongoing … Mobil remains committed to ensuring that the health and environment of our neighbouring communities are protected.”

Oil spills are common in Africa’s top energy producer and stretches of the Niger Delta, a fragile wetlands environment, are coated in crude. Thousands of barrels are spilled every year and lax enforcement means there are few penalties.

Oil firms say the majority of spills are due to armed oil thieves hacking into or blowing up pipelines to steal crude, an activity they estimate saps nearly a fifth of Nigeria’s output.

Exxon Mobil detects oil spill in Akwa Ibom

Exxon Mobil Corp. said it has detected an oil spill along the shoreline of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Nigel Cookey-Gam said in an email statement on Wednesday that the spill was spotted near Ibeno in Akwa Ibom where the U.S. oil company’s local subsidiary has the  base of its operations.

Ogoni village sues Shell in London over oil spill compensation

The residents of Bodo community in Gogana local government area of Rivers state on Friday squared off against Shell’s Nigeria operation in a London courtroom, demanding compensation for recent oil spills.

While the Nigerian unit of Royal Dutch-Shell Group of Companies, based in London, took responsibility for the spill of about 4,000 barrels in the Niger Delta, lawyers representing the community had to file a lawsuit after negotiations broke down, the BBC reported Friday.

The head of Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria said lawyers representing claimants made it difficult for the matter to be resolved.

When Shell accepted responsibility last August for spills in 2008 and 2009, it said they were caused by operational failures and promised to clean up the oil, restore the land and pay compensation in accordance with Nigerian law.

Martyn Day, the British attorney representing Bodo residents, said the spills devastated a once-thriving fishing community of about 50,000 people.

“I’ve been around Bodo on a number of occasions and you just have to walk round. It looks like a World War I scene, where the oil has totally destroyed much of the local environment and the fish … have basically disappeared from the area,” he told the BBC.

Shell has argued that much more oil was spilled because of illegal activity in the Niger Delta, such as sabotage and theft.

Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of the Nigerian operation, said understanding the “the complexities of the Niger Delta” was key when considering compensation.

“We did do everything possible to make sure that we pay compensation to the affected communities, but we also have to make sure that this compensation is paid to the right people,” Sunmonu said. “The trouble is you cannot do that as long as [different] lawyers are representing them.”