The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has berated the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for its slow response to the multiple crude oil spills in Diebu creek of Peremabiri Community in Southern Ijaw Council of Bayelsa State.
This followed a field visit led by Programme Manager of Niger Delta Resource Centre, Comrade Alagoa Morris with newsmen on October 11, 2023, following a distress call from the community on multiple spills along the Diebu creek.
Prior to the field visit, the community had informed ERA/FoEN that Shell said a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) would visit the spill site but failed to keep to the promise including the date ERA/FoEN visited, adding that after two Joint Investigation Visits (JIVs), a day after the field visit by ERA/FoEN team, Shell in sponsored press statements, attributed one of the spills to equipment failure and tagged the other inconclusive.
Speaking to the team, youth president of the community, Benjamin Ebinibo expressed dissatisfaction over the conduct of Shell and their response to spill issues, saying the Peremabiri people are not known for sabotaging crude oil pipelines and so the leak must have been from faulty Shell equipment.
Describing the plight of the women of the community, the Assistant Women Leader of Peremabiri, Favour Morgan, lamented the reoccurring spills in the community and how they have destroyed their environment, collapsed fishing and farming activities, which is their primary source of livelihood.
“Our women who are fishing and farming are unhappy with what is happening to our land and water. This is our means of livelihood. Our traps for fish and crayfish have been affected by the crude oil. Even our fishing nets no longer catch fish, our plantain and cassava farms too have been affected by the oil spill.”
She called on Shell to rise up to its responsibilities, with a warning from the women who have vowed to take action against Shell if the company is not proactive with their response to oil spills.
“We are begging Shell and the government to come and clean up the environment. If they fail to come and do the needful, we the women will take action against them. When oil spills occur they hardly respond in time. And this is not good. If they had their mothers here they will come and do the needful instantly.
“But, because they know it is other people’s mothers that are here that is why they are acting this way. So, they should come and clean up the environment; it is not good to see it like this. The survival of the people depends on the environment,” she said.
On his part, the CDC Chairman of the community, Basil Young narrated the ordeal of Peremabiri people, citing issues ranging from neglect suffered by the community as host community in terms of absence of basic amenities to negative impacts of the current oil spill incidents.
He revealed that since the inception of Shell in 1957, the community has suffered several levels of negligence with peanuts as benefits provided by the company, despite the huge income generated from the oil wells situated in the community.
“It is a pity that since 1957 Shell has been operating in this community, we don’t have anything. No social amenities. We have a cottage hospital, but if you go to that place [the cottage hospital], you will pity the community. No potable water, coastal erosion is eating off the community.
“The spill has affected the community economically, socially and otherwise. Our poor mothers, wives and our children survive through this swamp and the river. We ought to have received relief materials. This spill has been there for some days now; no Shell staff, nobody. We are all here on our own,” he said.
He appealed to Shell to clamp its leaking pipeline and to restore the environment and urged the government at all levels to intervene in the matter to ensure peace and order in Peremabiri Community.
Also reacting to the spill, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said it was on record that Shell’s promise to visit the spill site for JIV between October 10 and October 11, 2023 did not happen, adding: “Rather, we were informed that the JIV took place a day after the field visit by the ERA/FoEN led team on October 12, 2023.”
He said visiting sites and communities of interest with the media by ERA/FoEN was a deliberate strategy to enable stakeholders to interface with victims of spill incidents and get information from primary sources.
He further stated that while booming crude oil to prevent spreading on water is commendable, such actions do not prevent the soluble elements of crude oil from having chemical reactions in the marine ecosystem, adding that this is why effective and prompt cleanup should immediately follow booming of crude oil in any marine ecosystem.
Williams, who urged Shell to take immediate action to cleanup and restore the Peremabiri Community environment, charged NOSDRA and the Bayelsa State Ministry of the Environment to follow up on the incessant spill incidents and ensure proper cleanup, as well as resolve compensation matters within a reasonable time frame.