The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi has slammed Anglo Dutch oil giant, Shell for the way and manner it handles oil spill in the country, especially in the oil and gas rich Niger Delta region. He said the response of the foremost oil firm to oil spillages in the country fell short of international standards and practices. The helmsman of Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority spoke against the backdrop of the Bonga oil spill incident which wreaked havoc in many communities in the Niger Delta region in 2011.
The National Assembly had last week through the House of Representatives Committee on Environment, organised a public hearing over the incident. Recounting NIMASA’s experience during the incident, Akpobolokemi said that the oil giant tried as much as possible to frustrate the agency’s attempts to move to the site of the spill. As a stop gap measure, he explained that the agency provided some relief material to some of the communities affected by the spill. Akpobolokemi flayed Shell for it poor response and nonchalant attitude towards spill incidents in the Niger Delta area and called for an immediate stop to this.
Said he: “The kind of impunity Shell and its allies have demonstrated so far in the Niger Delta area in the past must stop if the future of the people of Nigeria and the environment are to be protected,” adding that in other countries when spills like this occur, the first thing is remuneration, attention to the affected communities and finding ways of reducing the sufferings of the people and restoring the ecosystem, which Shell has failed to do. “Shell fell short of all these criteria and of course it is sad that it is only in Nigeria that we can witness this degree of impunity.
“We in NIMASA see this as a serious infraction to our laws, communities and the damage done to the communities and the ecosystem can be seen as genocide. When a similar spill occurred in the gulf of Mexico, Shell was alive to its responsibilities, they were made to pay compensation to the affected communities but today in Nigeria, any spill that occur, a claim of sabotage or third party claims are the order of the day.” He said NIMASA had made presentations before the House Committee on Environment, asking SNEPCO to pay compensation, not an administrative fee, to the communities totalling $6.5 billion.
“The response from Shell was evasive and do not suggest that it is a company that is alive to its responsibility. It believes that the culture of impunity can continue to go on, thereby playing with our legal system. May we use this opportunity to correct the wrong that has been done to the Nigerian environment because of the callousness of this company and we stand by our position that compensation must be paid to the communities.
“What we expect Shell to do is to come to the negotiating table and discuss with the affected communities on the means of payment so that the communities can get back their natural eco-system”.
John Iwori, Bonga Oil Spill: NIMASA Slams Shell, http://www.thisdaylive.com/, Feb. 14, 2014