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Shell, community disagree on Bayelsa spill impact

A disagreement in the areas impacted by an oil leak on the Trans Ramos Pipeline within Shell’s oilfield at Aghoro communities in Bayelsa State has stalled a joint investigation of the spill.

Oil spill pollution
A water body in the Niger Delta polluted by crude oil

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the leak, which occurred on Thursday, May 17, 2018, discharged a yet-to-be ascertained volume of crude oil into the environment and polluted the river, farmlands and surroundings.

Shell said a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to ascertain the cause of the oil leak had been concluded but that the report was yet to be signed by all the parties.

Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Media Relations Manager at SPDC, told NAN on Saturday, August 25, 2018 in Yenagoa, the state capital, that the joint investigation was conducted by the oil major, representatives of the host community, government and regulatory agencies.

Odugbesan, however, said that report of the JIV, which commenced early last month, was ready and awaiting signing by the communities but declined to give reasons for the delay in releasing the JIV report, adding that the oil firm had commenced clean up of impacted sites.

The JIV report is expected to unravel the cause of the spill, volume of oil discharged, and the area adversely impacted, and volume of oil recovered in the spill incident as well as serve as a basis to determine compensation.

NAN learnt that Shell and representatives of the host communities had a sharp disagreement on the size of areas affected by the spill and hence refused to sign the report, which had disrupted ongoing clean up of the site.

Mr Sunday Benjamin, Chairman, Community Development Committee, Aghoro 1, who participated in the JIV, said that the communities had argued that the spill had spread to wider areas and affected more places than the JIV covered.

“The cause of the stalemate is that Shell refused to accommodate satellite communities.  They did not allow the JIV to be extensive. They excluded the satellite communities and fishing settlements.

“They only captured Aghoro 1 and 2, leaving other fishing settlements impacted by the crude oil that leaked into the waters. They recorded 33 acres for Aghoro 1 and 113 acres for Aghoro 2.

“We eventually signed our portion because we did not want delays in the process and our land affected was not much but Aghoro 2 people refused to sign that is why the JIV report is delayed.

“Everyone agreed that the spill was traced to ruptured pipeline on three points, due to corrosion on the Trans Ramos Pipeline,” Benjamin said.

Reacting to the development, Dr Peter Idabor, Director-General of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, said that the JIV was “inconclusive”, following the disagreements.

“From the feedback from our officers in Yenagoa, the JIV is inconclusive,” Idabor said.

By Nathan Nwakamma

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