The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) and Amnesty International have disagreed over allegations by the international human right watchdog that Shell and Eni were not deploying the best industry strategies in managing oil spills in the Niger Delta region.
While Amnesty International, last Friday accused the oil companies of negligence when addressing spills in the country, Shell, yesterday, denied the allegations of environmental mismanagement in the Niger Delta, reiterating its commitment to swift response to oil spill incidents as much as access and security conditions permit teams to mobilise and deploy to spill sites to investigate, clean up and remediate such areas.
The company said that this is in addition to deploying technology and best practice to make it more difficult for unauthorised persons to break pipelines and steal crude oil from its facilities.
Reacting to the Amnesty allegations in a statement made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Shell’s Media Relations Manager, Bamidele Odugbesan, quoted General Manager, External Relations, Igo Weli, as saying, “SPDC, in collaboration with government regulators, responds swiftly to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause.
“We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. However, response to spills, clean-up and remediation depend on access to the spill site and ultimately on the security of personnel and equipment while work is ongoing,” Weli added.
He said Amnesty International’s allegations were false, without merit and fails to recognise the complex environment in which the company operates where security, a sole prerogative of government, remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping, vandalism, threats from self-described militant groups, among others.
Weli said the transparency in the online reporting of spill incidents by SPDC in its areas of since 2011, which Amnesty International itself acknowledged, demonstrates its commitment to creating awareness and enhancing collaboration with key stakeholders on oil spill response and clean-up processes and deepening understanding of the complex and challenging operating environment.
“SPDC reiterates its commitment to carrying out operations in line with best practice in a responsible and environment-friendly manner,” he added.
Investigations show that over the years, SPDC, the operator of a joint venture between the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), SPDC, Total E&P Nigeria Ltd and the ENI subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, has sustained air and ground surveillance as well as anti-theft mechanisms on equipment and pipelines to mitigate third-party interference and ensure that spills are detected and responded to as quickly as possible.
The company conducts daily over-flights of its pipeline network to identify any new spill incidents or illegal activities, and installed state-of-the-art high definition camera to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets.
SPDC also works diligently to develop new hardware barriers and technologies to detect and prevent oil theft, sabotage, criminality and other types of third party interference that cause environmental damage, participating in industrial organisations in Nigeria as well as internationally to share best practices.
Investigations reveal that despite these and other efforts, criminals still target oil and gas infrastructure, causing spills.
However, the company explained it was continuing to focus attention on the detrimental impact of these activities on people, the economy and environment in engagements with the media, government officials, diplomats and community people.
It would be recalled that the London-based human rights group, had described the oil majors’ action as “serious negligence,” saying that they were “taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation.”
Amnesty said the evidence of the negligence was exposed by a research project, adding that the oil giants’ “irresponsible approach to oil spills in the Niger Delta is exacerbating an environmental crisis.”
The Business and Human Rights Researcher, Amnesty International, Mark Dummett, said “Shell and Eni claim they are doing everything they can to prevent oil spills but Decoders’ research suggests otherwise. They found that the companies often ignore reports of oil spills for months on end; on one occasion, Eni took more than a year to respond”.
Amnesty International asked the Nigerian government to re-open investigations into 89 oil spills.
An Eni spokeswoman was quoted as saying that the rights group’s statements “are not correct and, in some cases, not acceptable,” adding it had provided a detailed response to Amnesty’s allegations.
Shell and Eni have for decades been two of the most active oil majors operating in the Niger Delta region.
Nigeria’s crude-producing heartland is an ecological disaster zone, scarred by decades of spills that have tainted the water and killed swathes of trees and other plants.
Yet, clean-ups and the associated compensation are highly contentious, with some local communities even blocking teams’ access to spill sites, allowing the damage to worsen, in the hope of extracting a bigger pay-out.
Under Nigerian law, companies must visit sites within 24 hours of reporting a spill.
Amnesty said that in one case, Italy’s Eni took more than a year to respond to a spill in Bayelsa State.
FG Mulls Introduction Of Private Firefighters
The Federal Government says it is proposing to broaden the scope of the National Fire Academy to accommodate private firefighters to address fire incidents across the country.
The plan, if carried out, would lead to the emergence of private firefighters in the country.
Speaking after his first official inspection tour of the academy, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said the fire service could have certified private firefighters like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps’ private guards.
He added that private firefighters were needed to enhance the fire service’s operations as well as improve their response time.
This was contained in a statement by the Minister’s Media Adviser, Alao Babatunde, yesterday.
The statement partly read, “Today, we have over 3 million private guards certified by the NSCDC. We can have something similar for the fire service. We need private fire service men to enhance our service and response time. The President’s #RenewedHope agenda has charged us to be innovative if we must change the narrative.
“As a matter of fact, this is another innovative way to generate revenue because we expect that anyone looking to become a safety or security guard should get trained and certified by this academy.”
Tunji-Ojo urged all institutions and recreation centres to engage certified fire and safety personnel trained by the academy when the plan materialises.
He said: “A lot has been done, but there is still a lot more to be done. With what I have seen here, I can guarantee you that we will work very hard to see that this facility will not only be useful in training officers of the fire service but also for the private sector.
“We must make fire safety a personal affair. Every institution, commercial and social recreation centre should have certified fire and safety personnel, trained by this facility.
“All public and commercial buildings and infrastructure such as banks, hotels, malls, restaurants, or even government buildings should have first responders that can administer basic fire fighting remedy while waiting for the arrival of a full operation squad of the country’s Fire Service”.
Decentralise Pipeline Surveillance Contracts, Ondo Ex-Militants Urge Tinubu
A group of ex-militants in Ondo State, on Wednesday, called on President Bola Tinubu to revisit the pipeline surveillance project and decentralise the awarding of the contract.
The group, under the auspices of the Ondo State Niger Delta Coastal Vanguard, said decentralisation of the contract would enhance the security of pipelines on waterways.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the group, Chief Lucky Ajiroba.
The statement is titled, ‘Call on His Excellency President Bola Tinubu to re-visit the pipeline surveillance contract.’
The group faulted the last administration for awarding the contract to only one company, saying the purpose for which the contract was awarded was not achieved as the security situation of the pipelines was getting worse.
The statement read, “We are the members of Ondo State Niger Delta Coastal Vanguard. The group led by Akogun Job Omotuwa comprises ex-militants in the state who voluntarily submitted their arms and ammunition in response to the good gesture of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the amnesty programme in the year 2017, and we have shown our unwavering allegiance to the terms of the amnesty initiative of the government.
“The overall effects of all these are: it has increased considerably the quantum of oil production, it has substantially increased the revenue accruable to the Federation account, and ultimately it allows peaceful coexistence among the people of the oil-producing communities of the country.
“We are aware of the sterling enterprise of this administration to improve on the security architecture of the Nigeria state and all its apparatus, with a particular reference to the pipeline surveillance and secured waterways.
“The last administration made a giant stride by awarding the pipeline surveillance to a sole company in the Niger Delta Area. It is not out of place to state that the purpose upon which the contract was awarded for was not achieved as the situation of the security of the pipeline was worse than ever before since their collaborative effort was not enough to support the constituted military authorities.
“The failure of this was ascribed to the centralization of the contract. In view of this perennial failure, there has been avalanche of agitation from every quarter that the pipeline security contract should be decentralized for the purpose of achieving the desired goal of the Federal Government which is in the best interest of the entire citizens.”
The group, which commended the President for its efforts in repositioning the country’s economy, opined that each ex-militant leader in the Niger Delta Region be identified, and the pipeline security contract be split among them.
Assembly Tasks Delta Govt On Rising Prostitution, Drug Abuse
The Delta House of Assembly has passed a resolution urging the State Government to take drastic measures against rising cases of drug abuse and prostitution in the state.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Mrs Bridget Anyafulu (PDP-Oshimili South) at plenary in Asaba.
Presenting the motion, Anyafulu decried rising cases of open sex trade and use of illicit drugs among youths in the state, especially in Asaba and environs.
“Open sex trade and use of illicit drug is not a good example for our children.
“The situation is worrisome considering the fact that both issues are illegal,” she said.
Anyafulu, also the Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, Community and Social Development said that urgent measures must be taken to address the situation.
“The twin evil of drug abuse and sex trade represents great danger to the lives of our young people and the society at large.
“They both underline the physical, mental and social well-being of our young people and this will also jeopardize the development, peace and security of our dear state.
“So, I want to state that no nation survives without the youth, the youth and the young general are the life wire of our nation.
“Any nation that ignores the youth is heading for doom, so the importance of the young people cannot be over emphasized, it is therefore very important that we address this ugly trend,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr Oboro Preyor (PDP-Bomadi) decried the negative impact of rising drug abuse and prostitution, saying it must be addressed.
‘‘If this ugly trend is not addressed, it would attract more young people into their folks,’’ he said.
He also urged the government to rehabilitate youths who were addicted to drug and to create other avenues of engaging them in productive activities.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers when put to voice vote by Speaker Dennis Guwor.
The lawmakers also called for support from law enforcement agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of illicit drug dealers and commercial sex workers in accordance with the law in order to curb the rising trend.
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