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 CSOs visit Nembe oil spill site, fault Aiteo’s cleanup claims

CSOs visit Nembe oil spill site, fault Aiteo’s cleanup claims


A team of civil society organisations, after visiting the site of Aiteo’s OML Well 1 in Nembe, Bayelsa State has faulted the claim by Aiteo that a cleanup of the environment is in full swing. The team also called attention to the damage done to plant and animal life in the area of the oil spill.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] had earlier visited the spill site and one of the impacted fishing settlements of interest on November 21, 2021.

The Civil Society team visit of December 9 was not only to confirm that the spewing of crude oil/gas had stopped; but also to feel the pulse of the environment.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Alagoa Morris of ERA/FoEN stated that despite being initially frustrated by military presence, some members of the team were able to visit the site and observed that “none of the two Wellheads gracing the immediate environment was spewing crude oil; include the OML 29 Well 1.

“Even though observations were cursorily, the negative impacts of crude oil on plants and animal lives within the immediate environment wasn’t lost.

“The great damage caused the environment by the spill which continued for a month and eight days was heard from the environment. Dead plants/crops and animals like land crabs locally referred to as ‘’Oluu’’ littered the environment.

“About ten large dead crabs were picked within a three square meters space amidst lifeless leaves of dead shrubs.

“With the continued presence of heavy volume of crude oil covering the entire surface of water around the Creek leading to the Wellheads and immediate environment; it is most likely that no aquatic lives would remain in that environment.”

The report also stated that Aiteo’s claims about a cleanup “are not completely correct.”

According to the report, “There is difference between clean up and recovery of spilled crude oil from spill sites/environment. Aiteo is using the media to misinform the general public as far as the use of the words ‘Clean up’ is concerned.

The report cited a statement credited to Aiteo in two national dailies stating “Cleanup of Nembe Oil Spill in Full swing, Says Aiteo,” and “Aiteo Intensifying Clean Up of Nembe Oil Spill”.

The report added that “this deliberate misinformation dished out by Aiteo is contained in other news outlets that are accessible online. This is incorrect, as the CSOs/Media visit on 9th December, 2021 only observed efforts by Aiteo aimed at recovering spilled crude oil in the boomed areas and that is not clean by any standard.”

The CSOs observed that “Some minutes before speeding into Santa Barbara River from Nembe [Bassambiri] the familiar pungent smell of black gold assailed the nostrils of visitors before crude oil was actually sighted; in one of the tributaries of Santa Barbara. The level or volume of crude oil seen on Santa Barbara wasn’t significantly less, compared with what ERA/FoEN observed during the visit of 21st November, 2021. It was still heavy.”

The team added that “That the mangrove swamps are having heavy presence of crude oil cannot be overstated; deducing from observation at the banks of Santa Barbara, how they are seriously soiled by crude oil. And because every mangrove grows on salt water, the ebbing and full tide would have taken the crude oil deep into the swamps. This is why related JIV shouldn’t be rushed; it has to be thoroughly done in terms of identifying scope/spread of the pollutant. Unless properly cleaned up; the pollutant would remain in the environment and deny the people of their means of livelihood for years.”

ERA/FoEN demanded that “Aiteo, the polluter shouldn’t dictate the tune with oil industry politics and propaganda; as it is false to claim clean up has started. Rather, a simple onsite official protocol to be met by interested stakeholders should be in place for site visits instead of using armed military personnel to prevent stakeholders from seeing and knowing what is happening at the impacted environment.”

The environment group also wants “A properly constituted Joint Investigation Team [JIT] should be commissioned for JIV by the Federal Government; including experts representing the victims and not just ordinary community folks. Recommendations in terms of Post Impact Assessment [PIA], proper cleanup and remediation/restoration of the environment should be acted upon immediately that is devoid of bureaucracy.”

Led by Nnimmo Bassey, the team of civil societies included: Health Of Mother Earth Foundation [HOMEF], Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN], Agape Birthrights, Stakeholders Democracy Network [SND], Stakeholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability [SACA], Institute For Niger Delta Studies, Nembe Se Congress, Ondewari Health Education and Environmental Project [OHEEP], Operation Rescue, Green Earth for Great Minds Initiative, Oil And Gas Producing Areas Enlightenment And Empowerment Initiative [OGPAEEI].

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