The Bayelsa State Government has expressed concern and displeasure with oil firms for flouting court orders on oil spill cases in the state.
The government decried the alleged ‘blatant disregard for court rulings’ and called on oil firms operating in the state to embrace the rule of law.
The appeal was made by the Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Oil and Gas, Mr Felix Ayah, in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
“Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has reneged its corporate social responsibilities to maintain peace in its operations, negating the state government’s effort to strengthen the existing peace for smooth operations by (the) oil firms.
“After going through the outcome of the court’s verdict at my disposal authenticating Anyamawari family as certified owners of the land, it is incumbent on SPDC to recognise and treat them as such,” said Mr Ayah who mediated in a peace meeting between Onyoma community in Southern Ijaw and the SPDC.
He advised the Anyamawari family to channel all relevant documents to appropriate quarters of the company for prompt action and payments of all outstanding obligations without further delay.
An official of the SPDC, who said that the oil firm had laid down procedures in resolving issues with communities where it operates, urged the community to follow the same process.
The Bayelsa Government had in January 2016 sued the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, seeking 1.6 trillion naira damages for pollution caused by an oil spill in Brass area of the state in November 2013.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday paid a visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, recommending that the region should have a special development zone status.
Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and was received in Delta State by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
In his address of welcome, entitled: ‘We must prepare for the future’, he advocated sustainable development for the Niger Delta region.
“An Area Of Poor Infrastructure”
“The Niger Delta that we see today, including this great kingdom, is an area of poor infrastructure – few schools, few hospitals, and severe pollution.
“The Niger Delta of today, is one of daily pipeline vandalism. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalism.
“The Niger Delta of today is one where, aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents, arising from breach of the pipeline.
“Everywhere you go, there are signboards of proposed projects, mostly uncompleted or abandoned altogether.
“Many of the initiatives to change the story, have not been able to make the big changes required,” the Vice President stated.
Citing several examples, dating back to the 60’s, down to the present day amnesty programmes, the Professor Osinbajo said many of such programmes have not been able to meet up with their objectives.
However, he charged the people, stressing that “the future, is not a future of environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, poor roads”and the likes.
Rather, it is a future of “progress and development” but according to him, “there is no time, as the future is already here”.
He then stated that in order to ensure that the future is not worse than today, three things must happen.
Also he believes that while the government plays its own part, the people have to combine efforts with it, in order to realise the desired development.
One of such things, he stressed, was that the people “must recognise the unique environmental and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta.
“We must recognise that the Niger Delta is a special development zone for this nation.
“It means that the Federal and State governments, the National Assembly representatives, along-side the NDDC and the civil society representatives, of the Niger Delta people must sit together, develop, plan and fund an arrangement for rapid development,” he stressed.
Also, in furtherance of development in the region, Professor Osinbajo revealed that the Pan Niger Delta Forum had come up with 16 dialogue issues that would be extremely helpful in ascertaining its key development priorities.
He stated that the region must also hold some of the international oil companies, to their agreement with host communities.
“We must promote indigenous participation in oil companies,” he added.
He also hinted that in the 2017 budget, provision had been made for the commencement of the Lagos-Calabar railway. (the coastal railway).
Mr Osinbajo is expected to also visit a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states, where he is expected to address issues affecting the region and bring an end to militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities.
Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will be visiting a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states starting on Monday, January 16, 2017, when he travels to Delta State.
According to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States at a later date to be announced soon.
Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.
He stated: “At these visits, the Vice President will lead high-level delegations of the Federal Government that will interact with leaders and representatives of the oil-producing communities in continuation of ongoing outreach efforts of the Buhari administration towards a long lasting and permanent resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.
“The Buhari presidency is fully committed to having an effective dialogue and positive engagement that will end the crisis in the oil-producing areas, and believes that these visits would further boost the confidence necessary for the attainment of peace and prosperity in the areas and the Nigerian nation in general.”
A High Court in London will determine whether Royal Dutch Shell can face trial in the United Kingdom over allegations of oil spill in Nigeria.
Reuters said the court would decide in a matter of weeks whether members of Bille and Ogale communities in Rivers State can sue shell in British courts.
This follows the claim by the law firm representing the communities that Nigerian courts are not strong enough to handle the matter in a reasonable time.
The Anglo-Dutch company, however, insisted that the case should be heard in Nigeria as the matter was the country’s problem.
Shell denied responsibility for the oil spills, but attributed it to sabotage and illegal refining by some people in the two oil-rich communities.
The case was said to have been filed shortly after the company admitted responsibility for two pipeline leaks in 2008, and agreed to pay the sum of 55 million pounds to Bodo community, also in Rivers State.
A field report by Environmental Right Action (ERA) has indicated that oil spills from Tebidaba-Ogboinbiri crude line operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) has discharged massive volumes of crude into surrounding environment.
The report claimed that officials of NAOC had commenced recovery of spilled crude from Ikienghenbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The report, signed by Head of Field Operations at ERA, Mr. Alagoa Morris, said that more than 30 plastic tanks of 2,000 litres of crude had already been recovered by Agip officials.
ERA, the environment focused non-governmental organisation regretted that a joint investigative visit had yet to be conducted to ascertain the cause of the leak and urged the management of NAOC to urgently convene a JIV to the spill impacted site.
Some community sources at Ikienghenbiri said that the development had crippled economic activities in the predominantly fishing and farming coastal settlement as oil recovery was still ongoing at the spilled site.
A former Community Development Committee Chairman in Ikienghenbiri, Mr. Marshall Josiah, said that the community had reported the incident promptly but the oil firm had allegedly delayed its response resulting in the massive leaks.
He said, “Due to the heavy volume of crude oil so far spewed, we have not been able to commence the process of clamping the ruptured point.
“We are looking for a way to evacuate the crude oil from the place to enable us to access the oil-bearing pipe and repair it.
“That is what we are doing now, recovery of spilled crude oil. No JIV has been done on this spill incident.
“I saw several Geepee (plastic) tanks being used for the recovery exercise. From my observation, it may take them up to two or three months to conclude that task. And much of the surrounding bush/swamps have been completely polluted.”
The Community leader regretted that the pollution had depleted the arable land and fishing grounds available to Ikienghenbiri for fishing and farming, adding that urgent steps should be taken to bring reliefs to the people affected by the spills.
Officials of NAOC declined comments when contacted for comments.
At a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government officials on Tuesday, representatives of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria presented 16 points they believe should be considered by the government and implemented to end militancy in the region and boost development.
The presidential amnesty Programme: the decry that out of the five components of the disarmament and retrieval of weapons from the ex-militants, only the disarmament and demobilisation component is being implemented. Tensions over the fate of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme is as a result of lack of genuine exit strategy. They want the Programme reviewed to reappraise its core mandate to provide a robust exist strategy, in order to transit recipients into jobs, effectively integrate them and few the of dependency on stipends, so that their new-found skills would be of benefit to themselves and larger community.
Law and Justice issues: in view of the insecurity situation in the Niger delta, a number of pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals are yet to be resolved. It is important to address these issues urgently as a step towards lasting peace.
The effect of increased military presence in the Niger Delta: the increased in military presence has resulted in invasion of communities, displacement of persons, harassment and other firms of human rights abuse. They want government to halt the the escalation of tension in the region.
Plights of internally displaced persons: they want relevant government agencies to take urgent measures to meet their immediate needs of those displaced by upsurge of insecurity in the region.
The Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation: they want government to speed up the exercise. They want government to enforce zero gas flare deadline. They want the devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of an effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities tackled urgently. They ask federal government to commission a region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the region and undertake to enforce environmental laws.
The Maritime University Issue: want prompt take off of the Niger Delta university
Key regional critical infrastructure: they want completion of of East-West road, full implementation of the rail project that is designated to run through the Niger Delta region to Lagos.
Security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure. They want pipeline surveillance contracts given to the communities rather than individuals in a manner that is some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would the see their responsibility over the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs: the headquarters of most oil companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result the region is denies all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move will create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
10: Power supply: they advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in proved stability.
Economic development and empowerment: they want Brass LNG and fertiliser plant project including the Train 7 implemented, reviewing and updating the national gas master plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization of the region, creating a Niger Dekta industrial corridor that would process some portions of the bat hydrocarbon natural resources, expediting work on the export processing zones, harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farms estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied industrial clusters etc.
Inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership of oil blocs. They want the federal government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of oil and gas assets.
Restructuring and funding of the NDDC: The restructuring will ensure it refocuses as a true interventionist agency to respond swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them and also want full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry: they say the era of abysmal funding should end. The ministry should be adequately funded and strengthen to fulfill the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced population to reduce the risk of making the into a stateless people.
Fiscal federalism, the region supports the call for true federalism and urged that federal government should treat the matter expeditiously.
Oil giant, Shell has made an out-of-court settlement to the tune of 55 million pounds to Bodo, Niger Delta, for oil spills which led to the destruction of the community’s livelihood, mainly fishing and farming.
The £55m will be split between £35m for 15,600 individuals and £20m for the community.
Two oil spills occurred at Bodo in the Niger Delta in 2008, the first in August and the second in December, after which Amnesty International and CEHRD gave backing to the community to secure compensation and clean up.
In 2011, the people of Bodo, represented by a UK law firm, began court proceedings in the UK against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
“While the pay-out is a long awaited victory for the thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in Bodo, it shouldn’t have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
Shell had initially admitted that the oil spills were the fault of failures on the company’s pipeline at Bodo, but claimed that the volume of oil spilt was approximately 4,000 barrels for both spills combined.
However, In 2012 Amnesty International, using an independent assessment of video footage of the first oil spill, calculated that the total amount of oil split exceeded 100,000 barrels for this spill alone.
In the course of the legal battle, Shell admitted that its figures were wrong and it had underestimated the amount of oil spilt in both of the Bodo cases. It also noted that it had been aware, at least since 2002, that most of its oil pipelines were old, and some sections contained “major risk and hazard”.
The House of Representatives Committee on Environment has directed Shell Nigeria Exploration Company to pay the sum of 3.6 billion dollars, which is about N604 billion naira as damages for the Bonga oil spill caused by its equipment failure.
The Chairman of the Committee, Uche Ekwunife, gave the directive during an investigative public hearing on the Bonga crude oil spill, which occurred on the December 20, 2011.
“Since all efforts by this committee were tactfully rebuffed by SNEPCO, (it) has decided to adopt the damage assessment report submitted by NOSDRA as the lead agency in all oil spill management,” Ekwunife said.
The breakdown of the independent value analysis adopted by the committee indicated that Shell is to pay 63.6 billion naira for direct losses, which are irreversible damages, another 103.192 billion naira for loss of income, 85 billion naira for provision of water, while 27.4billion naira is for forestry.
For the indirect losses, the oil company is to pay 14.35 billion naira for health hazards; eight million naira for injurious affection and 302.4 billion naira for punitive damage.
The House reached the decision based on the report of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which previously recommended a fine of $5 billion.
NOSDRA estimated that around 40,000 barrels were spilled when a tanker was loading crude at the offshore platform operated by Shell’s subsidiary SNEPCO.
NOSDRA has previously said the spill had hurt locals in the area who rely on fishing for their livelihoods as the slick covered an area of around 950 square km.
Shell is one of Nigeria’s oldest energy companies.
Shell companies in Nigeria produce oil and gas from land and swamps in the Niger Delta and from deep-water reserves some 120 kilometres off the coast.
Shell also operate Nigeria’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, which exports all over the world.
Compensation talks will begin on Monday between lawyers of Royal Dutch Shell and 15,000 Nigerian villagers who say their livelihoods were destroyed by oil spills from pipelines operated by the company.
The villagers launched a suit against Shell at the High Court in London in March 2012, seeking millions of dollars in compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that polluted the waterways of the Bodo fishing communities in the Niger Delta.
The legal action is being closely watched by the industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against oil majors.
A vast maze of mangrove swamps and creeks, the Niger Delta is home to communities of subsistence farmers and fishermen living alongside the multi-billion-dollar oil industry.
“They want to be fairly compensated for their losses from the time the spill took place until the oil is cleaned up and the Bodo Creek is returned to its natural state,” said Martyn Day of the Nigerians’ London law firm Leigh Day.
A Shell spokesman confirmed that talks would begin on Monday between Leigh Day and lawyers for the Anglo-Dutch firm. They will take place in Port Harcourt, and will be attended by representatives of the Bodo communities.
Shell accepts responsibility for the Bodo spills but the two sides disagree about the volume spilt and the number of local people who lost their livelihoods as a result. A previous round of compensation talks broke down in 2012, before the lawsuit.
“We’re hopeful that an acceptable agreement can be reached with the Bodo community,” the Shell spokesman said. “Such an agreement would provide fair compensation, as well as a way forward on cleaning up the entire area affected by oil spills, whether caused by the two 2008 operational incidents, or by criminal activity.”
Citing independent experts, Leigh Day says up to 600,000 barrels of crude were spilt, which would make it one of the worst spills in history. The volume spilt in Alaska in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster was put at 257,000 barrels.
But Shell, citing a report by a joint investigative team not controlled by the firm, puts the volume spilt in the two original incidents at just 4,100 barrels.
Shell accepts that a significantly higher volume of oil was spilt later but says this was due to other factors including sabotage. It has also complained that its clean-up teams were at times denied access to sites by local groups.
A Shell spokesman said the talks would focus on the number of people affected, the actual financial loss suffered, and the amount of time for which those affected should be compensated.
The chairman Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Bukola Saraki has blamed Nigeria’s lax legislation and negligence for the high rate of oil spills in the country.
Speaking at a parley with members of civil society organizations, Senator Saraki observed that Nigeria would not make progress in curbing oil spill unless we change the law on oil spill management in the country.
Senator Bukola Saraki says he is seeking the amendment of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act which would help rein in the unwholesome environmental practices that has made oil spill incessant in the Niger-delta.
The bill, which has passed second reading in the senate, proposes instruments to make it harder for oil companies responsible for pollutions to dodge their responsibility by compelling them to pay compensation to communities affected by the impact of oil spill.
The Senator seeks a law that will impose more stiffer penalties on oil spillage, this he claims will serve as a needed check to curb oil spillage in the country, as the N1 million fine is not commensurate with and can’t curb oil spillage in the country.
The 2006 Act establishing the NOSDRA specifies that it would among other things ensure compliance of oil companies with Nigeria Environmental legislation and exert penalties of N1million fine when there is a default or spillage.
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”.
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.