Farmers impacted by the April 15 oil leak from Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Kolo Creek Oil Fields in Otuasega, Bayelsa, have appealed to environmental right groups for legal assistance.
The farmers told News Agency of Nigeria in Otuasega on Sunday that they had decided to seek legal redress over damages they suffered from the incident.
They said that the appeal had become necessary because they wanted to recover the losses they sustained from the incident as it has impoverished them.
Harriet Igbuasi, whose three banana farms were affected by the spill, said that they were unable to pay for the legal services required to pursue the matter.
“We are counting on the support of humanitarian organisations to help us to assemble a team of lawyers to take up our case on humanitarian grounds.
“We are unable to afford the cost of legal services to seek justice in the court. We would even want to also file a case on the issue in The Netherlands,” she said.
Mrs. Igbuasi said that a Joint Investigation Visit, JIV, to probe the spill excluded their farms and fish ponds despite their efforts to draw the attention of the team.
Kowele Saffic, whose fish ponds were affected, said that they felt betrayed and were aggrieved as their economic interests were not protected by the investigation team.
According to her, the affected farmers have resolved to seek legal redress because SPDC has remained adamant on the issue.
“The most annoying thing is the arrogance exhibited by the oil firm. They are claiming that the spill was caused by sabotage and abandoned the polluted environment.
“We are aware that the regulations which they rely on to absolve themselves of the responsibility also states that the operator of the field where pollution occurs should clean up the site.
“That responsibility is theirs no matter the cause, but SPDC officials declined to capture our farms as impacted areas.
“It was obvious that the spill happened because their surveillance staff were absent from duty,” Saffic said.
Mrs. Saffic said the abandoned spill sites were further being degraded, and appealed to the state government to intervene and compel the company to clean up the impacted sites.
The farmers also appealed to the state government to assist them in prevailing on the oil firm to also compensate them.
The Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, Iniruo Wills, said that the state government would verify the reported exclusion of some impacted sites from the exercise.
“We have to look at the information and verify it, and if it is true that the impacted area was larger than what was originally captured, we shall find a way of addressing these concerns,” Mr. Wills said.
However, Precious Okoloba, Head of Media Relations in SPDC, said that the oil firm stood by the report of the JIV.
“Under Nigerian Oil and Gas Regulations, the JIV determines the cause and impact of spill incidents.
“The investigation team which visited the site of the Kolo Creek spill on April 16 concluded that the spill was caused by sabotage,” Mr. Okolobo said.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...