Bonga Spill: Discountenance Shell, Independently Verify Spill Volumes, ERA/FoEN urges FG

December 22, 2011 - The Nigerian government must, as a duty to communities of the Niger Delta that suffer endless spills in their environment, ensure independent ways of verifying the amounts of spewed crude disclosed by the oil companies, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has demanded.

The call is coming on the heels of Shell's forced shut down of its 200,000 barrel-a-day Bonga field after an alleged leak during a tanker loading caused what may be Nigeria's worst offshore spill in more than a decade.
Media reports indicated that an export line from the Bonga floating production, storage and offloading vessel caused the leak, which Shell estimated at below 40,000 barrels of crude in a statement issued immediately after the incident.
Director of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency(NOSDRA), Dr. Idris Musa was quoted as saying the agency was aware of the incident and working hard with Shell to contain the spill.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described the incident as unfortunate, maintaining that the new spill which may be grossly undervalued, adds to the piling list of Shell's environmental atrocities in the Niger Delta.
"We are perplexed that even as we are yet to see the Federal Government and Shell commence the much talked-about clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended in the recently - released United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)assessment of that part of the Niger Delta, the company is going ahead to pollute the coastal and other parts of the region with reckless impunity, "said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

"Is it not ironical that the many oil fields including this floating station and field are named after fish and animal species probably as the only way to maintain memories of them as oil operations wipe them out? In this case, Bonga, a fish species is now threatened by Shell's massive leak. We are not satisfied with NOSDRA's claim that it is working hard with Shell to contain the spill. The people must know the true statistics which must then be followed through with a thorough cleanup of the environment. Being aware of the spill isn't good enough. Is NOSDRA on the spot? What is the spread of the spill? What is the response?"

Bassey noted that Shell's claim that only 40,000 barrels of crude oil was spilled into the environment cannot be trusted because past incidents showed that the company under-reported the amounts and impacts of its carelessness in the Niger Delta, even as he added that Shell's gradual selling of onshore fields and shifting offshore may be a ploy to avoid close monitoring and accountability for the 'ecocide' it continues to cause.

He insisted that: "It is disturbing that NOSDRA officials who should be on ground to verify the amounts of oil spewed into the environment may be actually relying on figures peddled by a company/industry that is not known to be truthful when it comes to revealing actual volumes of spills as well as taking responsibility for spills it caused"

According to him, the field should remain closed pending the outcome of investigation into the true cause and actual spewed amounts, adding that the mounting environmental woes caused by Shell and other extractive companies in the delta have made it imperative for President Goodluck Jonathan to listen to the demand for environmental justice by the people and halt further allocation of new blocs for oil prospecting.

'Aside a clean-up of the polluted environment and a comprehensive environmental audit of the Niger Delta as ERA/FoEN has demanded over the years, our position remains unchanged: It is time to wean ourselves of the wicked fossil-fuel driven culture by buying into post oil initiatives. We must leave the oil in the soil. The poor and the environment have sufficiently subsidised corruption and cost of crude through environmental impacts and loss of livelihoods. Enough is enough.' Bassey insisted.

Philip Jakpor
Head of Media - ERA/FoEN
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