The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Shell Petroleum Development Company have disagreed on oil spills investigation process in Bayelsa.
ERA/FoEN, an environment-focused nongovernmental organisation, accused SPDC of withholding reports of oil spills traced to equipment failure to evade payment of compensation, while it promptly reports sabotage-induced spills.
The NGO explained that the oil firm has been denying host communities in the Niger Delta access to Joint Investigation Visit reports which indicts the company over oil spill incidents.
The group, in a statement issued by the Head of Field Operation of ERA/FoEN in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, also accused Shell of deploying security operatives to intimidate the communities and deny them the vital JIV reports.
It listed Ikarama and Biseni communities of Bayelsa State and Joinkrama 4, and Edagberi/Betterland communities in Rivers as some of the communities the company had denied JIV Reports.
“SPDC often clandestinely denies the communities of the JIV reports; many of which are equipment failure-related oil spills. Shell has continued to deny the people of JK4, Ikarama and Biseni JIV reports craftily and, this is unacceptable.
“They withhold such reports from the communities and fail to post most of such incidents on the company’s spill incident website; the particular spill incident numbers are often quoted when giving out clean-up contracts.
“One such incident number is 900866 and relates to a 2012 spill which occurred at Shell’s Okordia Manifold at Ikarama which is conspicuously missing in SPDC’s website.
“After signing the JIV, Shell refused to give out the community copy on the pretext that they need to photocopy the report, on the way they forced down the community representatives from the vehicle and sped off,” the statement read in part.
The NGO further noted in the major spill from Shell’s six inches Adibawa North pipeline in Kilama, Biseni in May, 2013, which polluted the Taylor Creek and several communities, the JIV report was also withheld by Shell officials.
“After community representatives had signed the JIV with other stakeholders, Shell’s representatives said they will sign their own inside their car. On getting to the car, they zoomed off with the JIV report.
“That was another equipment failure spill and Shell has adopted the roguish act of denying the communities any such official records implicating the company”, ERA/FoEN said.
ERA/FoEN insisted it was the right of communities to have JIV reports signed by them and other stakeholders, stressing it was wrong for Shell to withhold the report which was supposed to form part of community records.
ERA/FoEN said Shell underestimates spilled crude volume when it is due to equipment failure related spills but inflates the quantity of spilled oil when it was attributed to oil theft.
The Head of Media Relations in SPDC, Precious Okolobo, in a reaction stated that the oil firm conducts Joint Investigation Visits of spill sites are in line with government regulations.
Mr. Okoloba explained that whenever a spill occurs, efforts are made to contain the spill, with access to the spill site usually a critical factor in shaping the response.
According to him, there have been instances where individuals, community groups or armed gangs have denied SPDC access to spill sites.
““SPDC categorically denies these allegations, the JIV team is led by the operating company and includes representatives of the regulatory bodies and the Ministry of Environment.
“Officers of the Nigerian Police Force, the relevant state government personnel and impacted communities also attend.
“Civil society members are invited to join these joint investigation visits as observers to the process.
“Allegations of intimidation or exclusion of community people in JIVs in Ikarama, Biseni or any other areas are untrue and completely baseless. Also, allegations that we withheld JIV reports from people are false,” Mr. Okolobo said.
But independent checks conducted by PREMIUM TIMES showed that most spill incidents induced by equipment failures are rarely reported by SPDC on its spill incident website.
Michael Ibobra who resides in one of Shell’s host communities in Southern Ijaw LGA, said that the oil firm was insincere and merely runs the web portal to portray the communities as vandals and evade paying compensation.
“They rarely report major spill incidents traced to equipment failure, look at the Seibou oil well incident that occurred since January 23, was it reported on their so called website? Go and check for yourself.
“The JIV of that incident said it was traced to equipment failure but Shell unilaterally said from their London Office that 550 barrels was spilled days before the JIV, so how did they know the volume when it was failure of the pipeline which was unanticipated.
“It goes to show that the JIV process has been abused to the advantage of the operator and we are not naïve, till date the January 23, spill has not been reported but they have all reported other spills caused by sabotage,” Mr. Ibobra said.