Mar 21, 2012

Ogoni: Senate Vows To Tackle Oil Pollution

In reaction to the incessant oil spills in the Niger delta, the Senate decided to take action to make sure the pollution is properly dealth with.

Below is an article published by AllAfrica:

Senate yesterday [19 March 2012] vowed to monitor implementation of United Nations Environment Programme report on the Oil spillage in Ogoni land, just as the lawmakers warned oil operators who engaged in reckless operations that have resulted to oil spills that it will no longer be business as usual.

Chairman Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki who said this in reaction to the recent incessant oil spills in the Niger Delta said that Senate would amend where necessary in the legislation to secure and preserve "our environment from oil spill related pollution.

Saraki at a 2 day consultative Forum for Select Members of the National Assembly committees on Environment and Ecology, which was organized Environmental Right Action also assured that Senate would make necessary legislation to protect nation environment.

He said: "Only the Oil Navigable Waters Act Cap 337 LFN (1990) addresses pollution of the sea and navigable rivers. We have worked to review this so as to deal with damages and protection of the country's coastal line and creeks from oil spills from burst pipelines or leakages from fixed and floating oil producing platforms, as well as ballast and other pollutions from ship"

Saraki said the upper chamber has started this, by developing a National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Amending Bill with deterrent penalties, which he said will also strengthen oil operators to improve their internal maintenance and safety measures.

He said the Senate will work tirelessly to make sure that the UNEP report on the oil spillage in Ogoni land would be immediately implemented adding that it would be undertaken as a key priority in the committee's oversight activities.

He said the Senate would make sure that all necessary legislation that is aims at tackling all environmental problems in the country including desert encroachment, gully erosion, and coaster erosion would be enacted in the life of the current Assembly.

"For instance, we are currently debating a Bill for and Act to establish an Erosion Control Commission, which is set for second reading soon. There may be need to develop a bill for the establishment of a National Environmental Agency, with holistic mandate of tackling all environment problems, an organization that could emanate similar in size and capacity as the United states EPA".

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has ordered the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to pay N4billion as general damage to five communities in Imo State for an oil spill that occurred in 1997.

A ruptured pipeline belonging to Shell along the Egbema-Assa delivery line had spilled large volume of crude oil beneath the surface, until the soil became saturated, and with rising water levels.

The communities are Umudike, Alimiri Umudike, Ekpe Agah, Ukpazizi Ekpe Mbede and Etekuru

With oil carried to the surface, swamps, streams and forest of the five communities in Imo State were polluted.

The communities led by Chief Sylvester Onyema Esiegwu (Eze-Ali Umudike-Egbema), eleven other chiefs on behalf of the communities, through their counsel, Mr. Lucius Nwosu (SAN) had filed a suit to demand special damages in the sum of N5, 408,000.000, as compensation for immediate direct losses to their means of livelihood as assessed by their expert chartered Valuation Surveyors and itemized in their report.

Prior to the suit, N900million ex-gratia was made by Shell to the communities, for which they were complied to sign an undertaking that the full and final settlement for the oil spill had been made.

Justice Gladys Olotu in her judgement, observed that looking at the documents presented by Shell in relation to the agreement, one might be tempted to agree with Shell. But she stressed that by doing so; the course of justice will not be served.

Looking at the claims for the sum of N5.4billion in special damages as compensation for the immediate direct losses to their means of livelihood as assessed by their experts charted valuation Surveyors, the Judge declined to grant this based it was not pleaded by the plaintiffs as required by law.

Justice Olotu, rather ordered Shell to pay the sum of N4billion as general damages for the indirect economic losses and negative environmental impact the communities suffered.

The loses, included objects of reverence, totems, historical land marks, air quality and associated fear and forced refugee status.

Also, the court granted the plaintiffs' requested to remediate the communities' environment to the pre-impact status. In addition, a perpetual injunction restraining Shell from causing such pollution in the future was slammed on the multinational firm.

In a bid to determine the cause of the spill which occurred on 29th April, 1997, Shell constituted a tripartite investigation team, comprising eleven persons, five of whom were its staff, including one from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), as well four persons from the communities.

In a report which Shell tendered in court as exhibit 5, it was noted that the spillage incident was due to an external corrosion on the pipeline.

In course of the trial, SPDC presented an amended statement of defence alleging that the spill was caused by sabotage.

But council to the communities, Nwosu had argued that a graphic examination of the point of rupture and the depth of the pipeline (buried 7 meters ) will show the impossibility of a saboteur accessing the point to punch the hole standing atop the underneath pipeline from the earth's surface above.

Nwosu said: "From the graphic illustration attached, possibility is zero that a saboteur standing on the surface of the earth, using a punch can achieve a punch on the pipeline at an impossible angle such as the 4O'clock position instead of the 12O'clock or at the worst 2O'clock position."