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Editorial News of Saturday, 11 December 2021

Source: www.sunnewsonline.com

Nembe Oil spill: Niger Deltans suffering in the hands of oil companies -Bayelsa monarch

First class traditional ruler and Ibenananowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo,  Agada IV First class traditional ruler and Ibenananowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo,  Agada IV

First class traditional ruler and Ibenananowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo,  Agada IV is angry over the recent OML 29 oil spill at Santa Barbara, Opu Nembe in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

King Dakolo, the author of the book: The Riddle of the Oil Thief, in an interview with FEMI FOLARANMI said it is a shame that the incident could occur in 2021, adding that it has revealed how Niger Deltans are suffering in the hands of oil companies.

How would you described the Nembe Oil spill

Breaking News, Nigerians can now work in Nigeria and get paid in US Dollars Click here to apply today .The Nembe Oil spill is the biggest shame of the oil industry in 2021. It is more than 24 days now and it is possible it would go on for the next 40 days. It is deliberate because it makes more money for some people in the oil industry, for those who would do clean-up, etc. Unfortunately the company is not showing any form of empathy.  What they are thinking about is their money. The response is a big shame because it is too slow, 24 days and they are still talking about bringing some people from somewhere, and this means they are not ready for business.  But I am not surprised. This has been the attitude of almost every oil company operating in this part of the world.  They do not care about the livelihood and the welfare of the people. If they are, they would have been prepared ab initio because this would keep happening.  We have rusty well heads and abandoned oil wells. They are saying it is sabotage, instead of showing empathy and saving lives. They are talking about sabotage so that they can put it on the defenceless people of the place. I feel so bad, so terrible that this is happening in 2021. They are thinking about how to get to the root cause instead of thinking on how to stop the spill. What they are trying to do is to look for a fall guy in the community to blame for sabotage. They are not even looking at their fellow competitors who might want to do it for money. I find that very irritating. I find it very nauseating and it is a big shame.

There is evidence that indicate that Aiteo, the company in question has given people relief materials in form of compensation…

Please don’t use the word compensation. They bought palliatives in form of noodles and cups of rice. That is not compensation. Compensation is something that has to do with valuation and paying the true value for damages caused. Compensation has to be calculated. Periwinkles have been killed, shrimps have been killed, fishes have been killed, the forests have been killed, and farms have been destroyed.  Even after the spill is stopped, the effect would go on for years. Every single place downstream is affected. It means the effect of this spill would go beyond Bayelsa to Delta to Rivers states. Everywhere that is connected with the Gulf of Guinea would be affected. Then we talk about the chemical released into air.  People would die. Many people would suffer respiratory problems.  The gaseous poison being released into the air would permeate atmosphere and go and choke people to death, old and young and they would not even count it as a consequence of this spill.   

Has there been a spill of this nature before

We have been having spills of this nature in the Niger Delta for the past 70 years. In 2018, we had one in Agoro, Ekeremor Local Government Area. It went on for 68 days, Shell did not come to stop it, dilly-dallying over whether it is sabotage or not. They know what they are doing. When they bring the issue of getting to the root cause, it is deliberate to stall the process of people coming to stop the spill so that it can poison the environment enough. Perhaps there is a planned genocide of the Niger Delta. Agoro had that. Shell eventually admitted that it was as a result of their old equipment but they have not paid anything. This is the third year and Shell has paid nothing.

We also have the Chevron blast in 2012 off the coast of Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. As a matter of fact the Nembe Oil spill is making the rounds because of the effect of social media. If it had happened at a time there were no camera, no phones to capture the magnitude, they would have just left it and deal with the voiceless people in the community. But this time we are lucky because it is being televised and the social media is also showing it. There are more to happen.  We have 1481 wells that are functional in 159 oil fields. Beyond this, there are thousands of wells that have been abandoned.  For example, in Otuabagi, called Oloibiri Oil Field, there are 21 wells. Nineteen of them, including the first well are from Otuabagi. The other two wells, one from Otuogidi , the other from Opume are not producing.  But some years ago when I went there, one of the well heads was oozing gas, you could hear the sound of gas bubbles from the forest. All these wells are potential landmines just there waiting for the right pressure to explode. The people of the Niger Delta are not considered as human beings.  This is just the beginning. Most likely between now and Christmas, you will hear of another spill in the Niger Delta similar to the scale of the Nembe spill. Then next year, you keep having more because most of the wells have been there for decades, been unattended to, nobody bothers about them. The oil industry is emasculating the Niger Delta people, impoverishing them and keeping them in a state where they are predisposed to breaking the law. In my book: The Riddle of The Oil Thief, there are several chapters pertaining to what is going on. Chapter 16 is Poisoned Neighbourhood and chapter 17 is Explosion. Abracadabra is the title of chapter 18 which is the gimmick used by the oil industry to mask the destruction going on. All these poison released are going to remain in the ecosystem forever except they are removed. And how can they removed? Water is a universal solvent, it dissolves everything including gold. So it would dissolve a bit of the hydrocarbon, fishes would drink it, human beings would bathe with it, plants would suck it up. Then it means the whole of the Niger Delta is being poisoned.

Can’t the people explore the legal angle?

When I hear people saying the legal angle should be explored, I find it interesting. Yes we have been able to win a few cases in Nigeria and abroad. But the oil industry has been taking the money from the bowels of our land for about 70 years to our deliberate exclusion. So they are rich.  When we take the matter to court, they hire all the SANs in this world and make sure the process is dragged for ten to 20 years at the high court, so the community people that find it difficult to eat, how can they afford a SAN? So they have weaponised the resources against the people. They have weaponised their expertise and frustrated the process. If the evidence is so compelling, they take it to the Supreme Court and ensure it takes ten to 20 years. So we are exposed. The vulnerability is underscored for the Niger Delta people. Yes going to court would have been the right thing for us, being civilized people but they have the money and we don’t have the money. These are the realities. The legal option would have been a good one to take but who funds it? They have our money. It is like an armed robber that has collected your gun and you are expected to fight the robber.  What are you going to use to fight him because he is holding your gun? As beautiful as that option would have been, we are constrained because we don’t have money.   

What is your assessment of the response of government?

The oil business since 1969 has become a Federal Government affair. Decree 51 of 1969 promulgated by Yakubu Gowon was hinged at making sure regional governments which is now states do not benefit from oil. Oil business is a Federal Government business, so the state government has limited access. But I commend the Bayelsa State government which has shown sufficient empathy and went early enough to ascertain the level of the spill.

Shamefully, the Minister of Petroleum who is from Daura has not been there. Just on Tuesday, he authorised the Minister of State to come here. This is because of the press, social media and the people that have been talking about it. Otherwise they don’t care; all they want is money.

The Federal Government does not have a spill prevention body.  They only have National Oil Spill Detention Response Agency (NOSDRA), which is to go there when the spill has occurred. But they said they do not have the resources to do what is supposed to be done as they are not well funded as a federal government agency. You can see how unserious the contraption is. They are more like passive observers too. So how do you set up an agency in an industry that brings all the money and don’t fund it? I am not surprised it took the Ministry of Petroleum so long to come to Nembe because they are all part of the complex oil industry. They are part of the game. The oil industry has made sure the Niger Delta people do not have anything from their resources. Every other people are benefitting in this country expect the Niger Delta people. I am happy that this year 2021, the mess and shame of the oil industry is being televised.  I hope after they are able to stop the spill, they do the proper thing of bringing valuers  and all the experts to properly publish the damages they have done to Bayelsa State  and pay every single dollar accordingly. And they should also clean up effectively and not to mask and do their abracadabra as usual.

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