Bayelsa communities cry out over Chevron oil rig explosion, warn of crisis if compensation not paid

Posted by News Express | 5 May 2015 | 4,166 times

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Communities affected by the rig explosion at Chevron’s oilfields have called on all tiers of government to intervene and avert a looming crisis following the adamant posture of Chevron.

Prince George Ibobra, a community leader in Koluama, described Chevron’s position that there is no basis for compensation as provocative and unacceptable.

Ibobra said: “It is a show of the insensitivity of Chevron to say that the rig explosion had no adverse effects, In addition to distorting the ecosystem, our fishing vocation has never been the same.

“We no longer catch fish as the fire which lasted over one month wiped out the fish, even the sea weeds on the ocean floor where the fishes feed and breed were killed.

“The sea weeds contaminated by hazardous materials used to contain the blow out is what our fishermen catch instead of fishes, we call on government to call them to order to maintain the existing peace in the area.

“We have been patient and been enduring untold hardship all these while, we are surprised that Chevron is washing its hands off the rig explosion.”

Ibobra noted that the appeals to governments at state and federal levels became necessary following promises of assistance when the incident occurred.

He said that the communities were still hopeful that President Jonathan will redeem his pledges to them before the end of his administration on May 29.

“The President as well as Petroleum Resources Minister personally visited the communities and made commitments to assist us; we are still waiting and hopeful that they can respond to our needs before handover,” Ibobra stated.

He also noted that the adamant posture of Shell on the Bonga Spill incident had pushed Bayelsa coastal communities impacted to the wall.

“The issue of Bonga Spill is another sour taste in the mouth, they have flouted the directives of the House of Reps and the Oil Industry regulators, and if in the next two weeks they do not pay, we shall have no other choice than to resort to self help,” Ibobra added.

Youths from the Koluama communities in Bayelsa had on Sept. 15, 2014 boarded and occupied the North Apoi oil platform operated by Chevron over nonpayment of compensation for the rig blowout.

They only vacated the facility after officials of the oil firm opted for dialogue brokered by Commander of Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Maj-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe.

Chevron Nigeria Limited, (CNL) had said on April 15, 2015 that there is no basis for compensation over the January 2012 rig explosion off Bayelsa coastline that resulted in a rig fire that lasted over one month.

According to a statement issued by Mr Deji Haastrup, General Manager Policy, Government and Public Affairs, CNL, the oil firm has no liabilities on the incident.

“The issue of compensation does not arise because the January 2012 rig incident occurred 10 kilometers offshore and did not adversely impact any community.

“However, following the incident, the Nigeria Oil Spill Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) conducted post-incident environmental assessment and reported the results to the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Environment.

“That report states that onshore air testing revealed no detectable levels of pollutants and water samples tested were within naturally acceptable standards.

“ Similarly, the result of the independent environmental  studies carried out in the coastal communities by an independent third party in conjunction with the regulators (DPR and NOSDRA) after the rig incident showed no adverse effects to air or water and the environment.

“Also, an independent Health Impact Assessment found that the incident did not adversely impact the health of members of the coastal communities, the closest of which was 10 kilometers to the incident location,” Haastrup stated

Hassstrup explained that an independent body, Multi-Stakeholder Committee (MSC), was set up to address the concerns of stakeholders who have made claims in connection with the Incident.

According to him, the MSC made several recommendations to CNL and the communities, which included a goodwill gesture by CNL to make an ex-gratia contribution in support of development in the communities.

He said that most of the projects selected by the various communities in furtherance of the implementation of the recommendation by the MSC have been completed and commissioned by the various communities.

•Photo shows oil rig fire.

Source: News Express

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