Ijàw Diaspora Congress (IDC) in the US has expressed disappointment that the Federal Government of Nigeria under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari did not deem it fit to give the Nembe people of Bayelsa State who suffered a major oil spill humanitarian assistance.
They are, therefore, seeking the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in the recent Nembe oil spill from a facility operated by owners of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29.
The letter requesting for the humanitarian intervention is dated December 17, and jointly signed by the group’s President, Prof Monday Gold, and Vice President, Europe & Director of Humanitarian & Disaster Affairs, Dr. Antonia Garner.
While they noted that the leak noticed on November 1 continued unabated until December 8, the group stated that OML29 is operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, with 51% of its equity owned by the Federal Government.
IDC noted that the spill incident has far-reaching ecological challenges on the economic health and wellbeing of the impacted areas and people, spanning from Nembe and its connecting creeks down to the Atlantic Ocean.
“Our attention has also been drawn to the cause of the spill said to be attributed to equipment failure.
“However, we await the official position of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which is the agency saddled with the mandate to detect, monitor, and manage oil spills in Nigeria.
“We await an evidence-based investigation be embarked upon to ascertain the cause of the Spill and its volume.
“The Ijaw Diaspora Council’s Technical Advisor, Rick Steiner, estimates that with 1-2 cubic feet of discharge per second, the blowout would have released a total of 532,000 barrels – 1,064,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 38 days the leak lasted.
“The discharge of this volume of toxic hydrocarbon into the sensitive marine ecosystem of Nembe and the over 40 communities that have polluted the ecosystem and destroyed the region’s biodiversity,” the letter read in part.
The group demanded that the failed wellhead be preserved for independent engineering forensic analysis to determine the cause of the failure, in accordance with the advice given by the IDC’s Technical Advisor, Prof Rick Steiner.
They insisted that preservation of the wellhead as evidence should be in conformity with criminal procedures, to prevent any further alteration or adulteration, and for submission to independent assessors.
IDC said it wants an independent investigation commissioned by the Federal Government, as to the causes and consequences of the oil spill disaster, including an engineering analysis of the cause of equipment failure.
They suggested that the investigation be carried out by an independent organization like the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and/or Det Norsk Veritas (DNV) in Norway.
The inquiry should at the official request of the Federal Government of Nigeria and Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, as a matter of urgency, and that, this independent investigation involve our technical advisor, Rick Steiner.
The group also requested an update of the mitigatory measures taken so far, in terms of humanitarian aid by the federal government to the impacted people and areas.
IDC also urged the central government to declare the spill a humanitarian disaster in Ijaw land and act accordingly.
It said suggested crisis intervention remedial action and the long-term intervention plan for the indigenes to ameliorate the long-term consequences the spill on the economy and health of the Ijaw people.
The group expressed dismay over Aiteo’s slow response time exacerbated the catastrophic damage that the failed oil and gas well head caused to the physical, economic, psychological, and general welfare of the affected communities.
“The response pace forced the victims into an immediate humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
“Failure to treat this as a national emergency with global repercussions would be akin to the commission of crimes against humanity under the Human Rights Act and other applicable laws and treaties.
“The immediate provision of alternative sources of income, necessitated by the loss of sources of livelihood in the over 40 indigenous Ijaw communities which were directly impacted by the OML 29 oil and gas blowout.
“The immediate provision of alternative sources of income should span the projected amount of time, potentially decades, that it would take for all the affected communities to economically recover from this extremely calamitous disaster that has befallen Nigeria,”
Meanwhile, the Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) into the cause and volume of spill from the leak at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 may have suffered a setback following the exclusion of Bayelsa Technical Committee set up by Governor Douye Diri.
JIV is a statutory probe that follows every leak incident by regulators, operators, State Ministry of Environment and host communities aimed at uncovering the cause of the spill and volume of leak.
The JIV to the well leak which polluted the Santa Barbra River and Nembe creeks from Nov 5 to Dec 8, 2021, was marred by absence of the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment and the State technical committee.
Officials of Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production, operators of the OML 29 had opposed the inclusion of media as part of the investigation while the Bayelsa Technical Committee insisted the press should be included to ensure transparency.
The divergent views expressed by the two parties led to a boycott by the representatives of Bayelsa Ministry of Environment and Bayelsa Government Technical Committee on the Nov 5 incident.
Officials of Aiteo who declined to disclose their identity whilst the disagreements lasted argued that the JIV consisted of representatives of oil firms, regulators, the State Ministry of Environment and impacted communities.
They maintained that they were not opposed to the participation of the State Technical Committee but the inclusion of media was not provided for in the statute books that listed the statutory participants in a JIV.
The 11 member Bayelsa Technical Committee inaugurated by Governor Diri on Dec 15 comprised five five members that included Prof Solomon Ebobra, former Dean of Law in Niger Delta University (NDU) and current Director of the Centre for Niger Delta Studies in NDU, Woyengikuro Agadah, former Bayelsa Director of Environmental Assessment.
Others are Tobin Igiri, an Earth Scientist, Enai Reuben, the Head of Petroleum and Pollution Department in the state Ministry of Environment, and Iniruo Wills, a former employee of the ministry of Environment in Bayelsa.
Reacting to the development Kemasuode Wodu, SAN the Legal Team Lead of the State described the exclusion of the press as unacceptable as the Bayelsa government urged the committee to ensure transparency.
“The Bayelsa government team on the JIV was barred by Aiteo and security deployed to the oilfields, so when they insisted that we drop our press crew, we became apprehensive of their motives and even our safety.
“So we are not aware if they went ahead or not but we were emphatic that the state government wants investigations to be conducted in a very transparent manner’’, Wodu said.
Mathew Ndianabasi, Spokesman for Aiteo could not be reached for comments while the Joint Military Task Force in Niger Delta referred enquiries to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.