Oil Spill: IOCs Exploiting Communities, Exploring Laws

Oil Spill: IOCs Exploiting Communities, Exploring Laws
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Environmental devastation, ruined economy and deteriorating health hazards associated with oil spillage in the Niger/Delta communities are common place as women suffer miscarriages, deformed infants due to the consumption of hydrocarbon poisoned water. The ph of the samples of the water are said to be at least 1,000 times higher than the normal drinking water,resulting from spillage from the international oil companies, CYRIL OGAR writes.

There have been rising concerns over the much publicized Ogoni cleanup and other polluted communities in the oil-rich Niger/Delta region as a result of issues and controversies surrounding the exercise as people are calling on the government to revisit and implement the report of the United Nations Environment Programme ,UNEP, of 2011 on Ogoni cleanup.
The reason behind the concern is not farfetched. A preliminary report by the UNEP released in 2011, requested that emergency measures related to the people’s health should be adopted prior to the exercise; ironically, this was not followed.
The sour of spilled crude oil was the ugly reminder of a creek that once bubbled with fishing activities.
The impacted creek told a saga of the heavy volume of crude oil spewed into the environment. Besides the crude oil stained grasses, other vegetation and materials at the banks, the surface of the body of the water (on the creek) displayed the colours associated with crude oil.
Although the recovery of the spilled crude into the environment is on-going, the odour could still be smelled as the temperature rises during the day due to the swamp and the nature of the terrain.
This has been the sad tale of sprawling coastal settlements on the Atlantic fringe in the Niger Delta region whose natives are predominantly fishermen and farmers.
AljazirahNigeria gathered that this year alone, the natives have had to contend with two separate oil spills. Since the rustic settlement was rocked by a devastating oil spill from the 24-inch Trans-Ramos pipeline owned by oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company ,SPDC, on May 17, 2018, the people and the coastal communities have become like the proverbial orphan.

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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD
Investigations by Civil Society Advocacy Centre ,CISLAC, revealed that sources of drinking water which ought to have been provided to the people prior to the cleanup, based on the UNEP report, were not provided for and the people continue to drink poisonous water leading to them dying young; it is reported that an average of 40 people are buried in Ogoni every month; life expectancy ratio in Ogoni according to report is between 41 and 43, lower than the national average of 67.
Their socio-economic condition has worsened and drinking polluted water has become second nature. Fishing, the main source of the livelihood of the natives, AljazirahNigeria investigation revealed, the environment has not only been crippled but the once alluring Otobo-Iba creek is also polluted with the result the community now rely on sachet water brought from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, and the neigbouring Warri in Delta State.
Disturbed by the impact of the May 17 spill, the 24-member Bayelsa State House of Assembly had speedily passed a resolution, urging the SPDC to send relief materials to affected communities and also commence immediate payment of compensation to victims. The lawmakers also called on the oil giant to put in motion the machinery that will stop further spread of spilled crude oil to other areas.
However, it was learned that before the spill could be contained, it had impacted some communities in Delta State, polluting the environment and rivers and killing fishes and other aquatic lives.
Ebipath Apaingolo, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment recently blamed the International Oil Companies, IOCs, for hiding under federal laws of the nation to intimidate local communities in the Niger Delta states.
He also accused the IOCs of treating the locals with levity, explore the oil yet destroy their environment.
Lamenting over the situation during live Channels TV programme Biodiversity Loss in Nigeria, According to him, after polluting the environment, the firms still shift the blame on the locals describing it as third party interference or equipment failure.
They treat local communities with levity, take our oil, and destroy the environment even after they must have admitted that it was equipment failure, they still blame it on third-party interference,” says Apaingolo.
“These are issues we are contending with. They hide under federal laws, intimidate our people, sometimes they even give small money to some groups that they feel are the ones that will give them problems and sponsor those people against the rest of the community.”
There have been several reports of the oil spill in the Niger Delta region in recent years. About 3, 500 activists across the globe had been on the IOCs, advocating cleanup exercise.
Though a number of actions were taken full remediation of the polluted lands, especially Ogoni is yet to be actualised despite Federal Government promises.
“Our people are dying of strange diseases…..so we are saying no to oil pollution. Criminalise oil pollution because we cannot continue like this. In our time this must stop.” he added

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HEALTH HARZARD BY THE COMMUNITIES
Further investigation by CISLAC noted that, are born babies are deformed due to the consumption of hydrocarbon poisoned water, the samples of the water are said to be at least 1,000 times higher than the Nigerian drinking water standard; women suffer miscarriages; artisanal mining leading to secondary pollution continues rising; and spillage from oil companies are also on the increase.
It is, however, believed that children born in the Niger-Delta Region are twice as likely to die in the first month of life if their mothers were living near an oil spill before falling pregnant, researchers have found.
A new study, was the first to link environmental pollution with newborn and child mortality rates in the Niger Delta shows that oil spills occurring within 10km of a mother’s place of residence doubled neonatal mortality rates and impaired the health of her surviving children.
Crucially, oil spills that occurred while the mother was still pregnant had no effect on the child or neonatal mortality. But even spills that happened five years before conception doubled the neonatal the mortality rate from 38 deaths to 76 deaths for every 1,000 births, the data found.
A 2011 report by the UN Environment Programme estimated that, after decades of repeated oil spills in Ogoniland, it would take 30 years to reverse damage to public health and the regional ecosystem.
Unborn and newborn infants are most vulnerable to oil-related pollution because they have not yet developed basic defences such as the blood-brain barrier, which helps protect against toxic chemicals, the study found.
Spills in populated areas often spread out over a wide area, destroying crops and aquacultures through contamination of the groundwater and soils. The consumption of dissolved oxygen by bacteria feeding on the spilled hydrocarbons also contributes to the death of fish. In agricultural communities, often a year’s supply of food can be destroyed instantaneously. Because of the careless nature of oil operations in the Delta, the environment is growing increasingly uninhabitable
People in the affected areas complain about health issues including breathing problems and skin lesions many have lost basic human rights such as health, access to food, clean water, and an ability to work.
In the light of the above, A Niger Delta-based Non- Governmental Organisation, the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice ,CEPEJ, recently called on the Management of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ,NOSDRA, to visit communities and creeks in the Niger-Delta region affected by oil spill.
CEPEJ, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Sheriff Mulade and made available to newsmen recently, noted that oil spill related environmental damages need urgent attention, adding that NOSDRA needed to be abreast with numerous oil spill in the region to enable it to discharge the agency’s statutory obligations to the people.
“We see reasons to redirect the attention of NOSDRA to several explosions of oil and gas facilities, pipelines resulting in severe environmental and ecological damages.
“There are numerous sub-standard oil and gas transportation facilities that are often prone to leakage, spill and explosion and if NOSDRA makes it a priority to know the locations of such facilities they could give better response operations which include detection, prevention and result oriented response,” it added.
The NGO drew the attention of NOSDRA to the preventable incident of 11 persons that allegedly died in 2016 from pipeline explosion at Agip’s oilfield in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, noting that it was necessary to call on NOSDRA to plan for a familiarization visit to oil spills affected sites particularly in the creeks and interact with host communities across Niger Delta.
The CEPEJ further called on NOSDRA to correctly evaluate the volume of crude and gas that had been discharged into the surrounding environment arising from various explosions, leakages, equipment failures and third-party interference.
Pollution of soil by petroleum hydrocarbons are extensive inland areas, sediments and swampland. Most of the contamination is said to be from crude oil; in 49 cases, UNEP observed hydrocarbons in the soil at depths of at least 5m.
At 41 sites, the hydrocarbon pollution reached the groundwater at levels in excess of the Nigerian standards permitted by National Laws; at Nisisioken Ogale, in Eleme LGA, close to NNPC products pipeline, an 8cm layer of refined oil was observed floating on the groundwater which serves the community wells;
Oil pollution in the creeks is said to have left mangroves denuded of leaves and stems, leaving roots coated in a bitumen-like substances, sometimes 1cm or thicker extensive pollution of these areas have impacted the fish lifecycle; it is noted that when an oil spill occurs on land, fire often breaks out, killing vegetation and creating a crust over the land.

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